The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the most prestigious race on the calendar in the United States, as the champion will be crowned. This year’s race will take place in November at Keeneland, and some of the biggest U.S. trained horses on the dirt will be in action. The ultimate goal is to claim victory in the Classic, and add a prestigious Grade 1 honor.
However, for some runners, they have been able to put an exclamation mark on the victory by doing so in one of the quickest times that has ever been recorded. The speed record could be in danger this year, as Flightline recently picked up the highest Beyer Speed Figure for ten years following his victory in the G1 Pacific Classic. But, what are some of the times that he will need to beat to make it into the top five quickest Classic wins of all time?
According to TwinSpires, the quickest time recorded from a Classic win came in 2004, as Ghostzapper completed the distance in a time of 1:59.02. The victory in the Classic that year marked his fourth straight success, and ensured that he went through 2004 without suffering a defeat. One of the standout factors from his Classic win at Lone Star was the fact that he went wire-to-wire.
That is something very few horses have achieved in the feature race at the Breeders’ Cup. Ghostzapper’s victory ensured that he was named the World’s Top Ranked Horse for the calendar year, and was the final big success of 2004 after victories in the Tom Fool Handicap, Phillip H. Iseline Breeders’ Cup Handicap, and the Woodward Stakes.
2. Skip Away
Skip Away was a very decorated racehorse throughout his career, but his victory in the Classic remains his most notable success. His victory in 1997 recorded a super-quick time of 1:59.16 at Hollywood Park, and ensured that he held the fastest-ever time in the Classic before Ghostzapper broke the record seven years later. Skip Away’s victory in the Classic was the biggest success of his career, and was one of the standout moments in the history of the Breeders’ Cup.
Throughout his career, Skip Away was named Horse of the Year, Champion Three-Year-Old and the Champion Handicap Horse on two occasions. In total, he won just under $10 million in prize money throughout his career on track, which was made up of victories in ten Grade 1s. Aside from victory in the Classic, other notable victories came in the forms of the Pimlico Special, Blue Grass Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup on two occasions in 1996 and 1997.
3. Raven’s Pass
European victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic have been few and far between. However, one of the rare victories came in 2008, as John Gosden trained Raven’s Pass to glory on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita. The victory was recorded in a time of 1:59.27, which remains a track record at the course in California.
It was a highly entertaining renewal of the Classic, with Henrythenavigator finishing second, and reigning champion Curlin finishing back in third. In total, he won just over $3.5 million in prize money throughout his career, and the 2008 season was the standout. He eventually retired to Ireland, a short time after that.
As well as winning the Classic, Raven’s Pass also landed the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, as well as the Celebration Mile.
The horse was also famous for giving legendary jockey Frankie Dettori his only career victory in the Classic.
4. Cat Thief
One of the biggest shock winners of the Classic came in 1999 at Gulfstream Park. Cat Thief came into the race having won just once from 11 starts over the calendar year, but many still believed that he had a strong chance, as he had previously placed in huge Grade 1s throughout the year. That included a strong finish in the Kentucky Derby. However, few could have imagined the runner winning with a then-record time of 1:59.52.
He was sent off as a 19/1 outsider, but he landed the victory in commanding fashion by a length and a quarter. The victory would be the biggest of his career, and would also be the final big high point before being sent to stud. In the year after winning the Classic, Cat Thief would line up on ten occasions, but he wouldn’t land a single victory in 2000. His only other major win for trainer D. Wayne Lukas came in the Swaps Stakes in 1999, and he retired with a career record of four wins from 30 starts.
Cigar is undeniably one of the very best race horses that we have ever seen on track, and he made history in 1995 when he landed the Classic in a time below two minutes; becoming the first runner to ever achieve that feat. The success was achieved at Belmont Park, and ensured that he ended his five-year-old season with a remarkable record of ten wins from ten starts.
There was little doubt that he was the star runner in the field in 1995, as he won by a dominant margin of two and a half lengths. Cigar’s reputation on track was strong away from the Breeders’ Cup, as he went 16 straight races with victory between 1995 and 1996. Cigar was named Outstanding Male Horse on two occasions, and also Horse of the Year in both 1995 and 1996.
He also retired with a Timeform rating of 138, and was later inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame. In total, he won just under $10 million in prize money throughout his career, which included victories in a number of huge Grade 1 races.
Aside from the Classic, Cigar would also pick up victories in the NYRA Mile, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Pimlico Special. After winning the Classic, he would continue to show his class in 1996, as he landed the Dubai World Cup, Woodward Stakes and the Arlington Citation Challenge.