The Top 10 Toughest Beats in Breeders' Cup History

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

October 17th, 2015

Tough beats for horseplayers and for horses are often one in the same, and the three-decade plus history of the Breeders' Cup have produced many of them. Picking out just 10 of the toughest from the horse's perspective is no easy task, nor is ranking them.

What makes some beats worse than others are the intangibles, such as divisional championships won or lost by the very narrowest of margins. That and other criteria have influenced that way we've ordered the following.

10. Sakhee - 2001 Classic: The closest a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner has come to following up with a win on Breeders' Cup day, his performance was all the more impressive given it was his first ever attempt on dirt. Looking the most likely winner for much of the final quarter-mile, he was passed very late along the inside by Tiznow, who became the first two-time Classic winner and triumphed for a country still reeling from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

9. Turallure - 2011 Mile: Catching Goldikova, who was seeking her fourth straight Mile victory, at her most vulnerable, Turallure overcame post 13 and made what looked at first glance a winning rally from last in the final quarter-mile. Even jockey Julien Leparoux's reaction on the gallop-out suggested he thought he had won, but the results of the photo showed instead that Court Vision had pulled off a massive 64-1 upset in what turned out to be his final career start.

8. Dayjur - 1990 Sprint: There are many ways to lose a race, but few were ever as unusual as one of Europe's all-time great sprinters jumping a shadow created by the massive Belmont Park grandstand, thus snatching defeat from the jaws of victory over reigning American sprint champion Safely Kept. The loss cost him the opportunity to emulate his dam, Gold Beauty, who had clinched the sprint title over the same track eight years before.

7. Winning Colors - 1988 Distaff: The third and most recent filly to win the Kentucky Derby (G1), the gray amazon was the first Derby winner to return to Churchill to race in 18 years and nearly exploited that asset to its full advantage against Personal Ensign, who was attempting to retire undefeated from 13 starts. Both fillies had clinched division titles beforehand, but the bragging right of inflicting a first defeat on Personal Ensign was still up for grabs and Winning Colors gave that rival her biggest scare in two years.

6. Zenyatta - 2010 Classic: A majority of the Eclipse Award electorate ultimately decided she hadn't needed to defend her Classic title to win Horse of the Year honors, but the remarkable mare was still seeking to do so while completing her racing career undefeated in 20 starts. Inexplicably falling nearly a sixteenth of mile behind the early leaders, she left herself with too much to do but came ever so close to making what would have been one of sport's most historic rallies.

5. Alysheba - 1987 Classic: That year's Kentucky Derby winner possessed a longevity many of his peers did not that season, resulting in an epic clash between him and the previous year's Derby winner, Ferdinand, in a belatedly-scheduled (November 21) Classic. Alysheba's late surge came a few strides too late, Horse of the Year votes swung to Ferdinand, and Alysheba would have to wait another 50 weeks or so to wear the Classic crown.

4. Jeanne Jones - 1987 Juvenile Fillies: Ferdinand's Classic win proved to be the only Breeders' Cup triumph for legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker, but both he and trainer Charlie Whittingham had actually come close to winning their first Breeders' Cup race earlier that day. Jeanne Jones looked like a sure winner after building up a huge lead in the stretch, but the immature filly (who was making only her third career start in the span of 34 days) became distracted by cameras placed along the inner rail and allowed the unheralded longshot Epitome to win both the race and the two-year-old championship.

3. Serena's Song - 1994 Juvenile Fillies: Racing alongside fellow stablemate and race favorite Flanders for seven furlongs, Serena's Song held the advantage most of the way before yielding in the final strides to Flanders after a prolonged, breathtaking duel. The effort cost Flanders her racing career as she was vanned off with an injury before reaching the winner's circle, and Serena's Song would have to wait until the next year to be named champion of her division.

2. Storm Cat - 1985 Juvenile: Initially not popular as a potential stallion prospect, the reputation of this breed-changing sire would have been vastly different if he had clung on to victory over the surging Tasso in the second edition of the Juvenile at Aqueduct. Although it cost him a division title, he would eventually become one of the most prized studs in the history of the sport. Despite defeat on the track, his legacy was subsequently secured.

1. Point Given - 2000 Juvenile: One of the most celebrated non-Triple Crown winning three-year-olds of recent times, Point Given closed like a freight train and virtually needed a jump or two more than 1 1/16 miles to catch Macho Uno to secure a title going into a sophomore season that was blemished only by a sub-par performance in the Kentucky Derby. The massive chestnut would have been the first Juvenile winner to come back and win two classic races, a feat that still remains unaccomplished.