Owner Breeder photographer George Selwyn has attended every Breeders’ Cup championship since the first edition was held at Hollywood Park, Los Angeles in 1984 when Wild Again took the Breeders’ Cup Classic after surviving a dramatic stewards’ inquiry.
Thirty-five years later, on the eve of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, Selwyn picks out his five most memorable moments to date.
Pebbles, 1985 – The first British winner
Kept in training after a three-year-old season that had yielded a victory in the 1,000 Guineas, the Clive Brittain-trained Pebbles contested the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1985 following success in the Eclipse and Champion Stakes.
Sheikh Mohammed paid $240,000 to supplement Pebbles into the race at Aqueduct and she was sent off favourite for the 1m4f event. She justified favouritism, holding off Strawberry Road by a neck to become the first horse trained in Great Britain to win at the Breeders’ Cup.
Dayjur, 1990 – The curious case of jumping a shadow
A lightning fast sprinter, Dayjur travelled over for the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Sprint despite never having run on a dirt surface before.
The morning before lining up in the six-furlong contest, Selwyn snapped Dayjur and Wille Carson in a routine gallop. However, the race did not go as smoothly as the gallop.
After a titanic stretch battle with Safely Kept, Dayjur and Carson had edged ahead well inside the final furlong, only for Dayjur to jump a shadow 50 yards from the finish line.
Carson sat steady but the damage was done and Safely Kept capitalised to score by a neck.
Royal Academy, 1990 – Piggott at his best
Following five years in retirement – and just 12 days after leaving prison – Lester Piggott made his return to the saddle a winning one when he guided the Vincent O’Brien-trained Royal Academy to success in the Breeders’ Cup Mile aged 54.
Piggott gave the opposition a masterclass in riding, waiting patiently before advancing on the outside from the rear of the of the field. Soon the impossible looked possible and Piggott galvanised Royal Academy to win by a neck from Itsallgreektome.
Arazi, 1991 – The stage is set
Dubbed the hottest thing in racing at the time, Arazi was the name on everyone’s lips at the 1991 Breeders’ Cup. Sitting near last on the first circuit facing the ‘kickback’, all eyes were on the son of Blushing Groom to see if he could make up the deficit.
What followed was breathtaking, with Arazi darting in and out of the field under jockey Pat Valenzuela to take the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by an impressive five lengths.
Blame, 2010 – Zenyatta’s swansong spoiled
It was meant to be the perfect end to Zenyatta’s career, staged under the lights at Churchill Downs, but with the great mare settled way off the pace by Mike Smith, it left an uphill battle to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
While many eyes were drawn to Zenyatta’s progress, it was the Albert Stall-trained Blame who hit the front a furlong and a half from home. Though Zenyatta picked up to great effect and stayed on powerfully, Blame stayed resilient and held on by a head to hand the mare the only defeat of her 20-race career.