The past decade or so has seen considerable expansion to the Breeders' Cup card. Some of the new races have stuck around, while others have been relegated to historical footnotes.
In this edition of Best of the Breeders' Cup, we examine the top performers in some of those newer races, based on the highest winning BRIS Speed Ratings.
The BRIS Speed Ratings assess efforts objectively using a precise algorithm to assign a number to each runner's effort based on rigid criteria, largely removed from human interpretation.
Heading into this year's Breeders' Cup, we look back at previous cards to determine the most powerful efforts in each division based on the highest BRIS Speed Ratings since 1990, the first year the numbers were implemented.
To put the BRIS Speed Ratings in perspective, the typical winner of a Grade 1 race for 3-year-old males and up would earn a number around 106. The typical winner of a $10,000 open claimer in that age bracket might earn an 88, while a typical $10,000 maiden claiming winner might earn a 75.
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Top Performer: Corinthian, 2007, Monmouth Park
BRIS Speed Rating: 118
The first Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner set a pace the division has spent a decade trying to catch, blowing away the inaugural field in the deluge at Monmouth Park.
The son of Pulpit took most of the mud early, breaking from the eighth gate and working his way to the rail behind the rest of the field heading into the first turn. Gottcha Gold was hustled out to the lead and put some distance between next-closest Wanderin Boy.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux patiently improved Corinthian's position up the rail and had him up to third after the half-mile mark, closely tracking Wanderin Boy. Corinthian appeared boxed in heading toward the final turn, with Wanderin Boy in front of him, Discreet Cat to his right, and the rail to his left, while Gottcha Gold continued to run hard on the front.
Wanderin Boy conceded the rail and allowed Corinthian by. With room to run, he shot up to the outside of Gottcha Gold and blew past the pacesetter under hard urging by Desormeaux. Drawing a “they would need to sprout wings” call from announcer Trevor Denman, Corinthian crossed the wire 6 ½ lengths ahead of Gottcha Gold. Discreet Cat was another 8 ¼ lengths behind in third.
Corinthian stopped the clock in 1:39.06 over a sloppy sealed mile and 70 yards as the 3-1 second choice. In addition to being the first edition of the Dirt Mile, it's also the only one to be contested at a distance other than the one listed in the name.
Corinthian's winning margin is tied for the eighth-largest for any race in Breeders' Cup history, joining American Pharoah's 2015 Classic and Volponi's 2002 Classic. Jimmy Jerkins trained Corinthian for owner Centennial Farms.
Much like in his race, Corinthian left a wide margin historically between himself and runner-up, Caleb's Posse, who earned a BRIS Speed Rating of 110 in 2011 when winning the Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs.
Top Five Winning Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile BRIS Speed Ratings
1) Corinthian, 2007, MTH, Rating: 118
2) Caleb's Posse, 2011, CD, Rating: 110
3) Albertus Maximus, 2008, SA, Rating: 108
4 – Tie) Tamarkuz, 2016, SA, Rating: 107
4 – Tie) Liam's Map, 2015, KEE Rating: 107
Breeders' Cup Marathon
Top Performer: Man of Iron, 2009, Santa Anita Park
BRIS Speed Rating: 108
The longest of the Breeders' Cup races is another one that set the bar early in terms of its BRIS Speed Rating, with Man of Iron holding on to win the second of the race's six editions, spanning from 2008 to 2013.
Man of Iron is perhaps best known as the little brother to Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, but he earned the biggest win of his career at Santa Anita Park in the Marathon. Man of Iron waited patiently for his opportunity to strike under jockey John Murtagh, then snaked around foes and took back to the rail to pursue home stretch leader Cloudy's Knight. Man of Iron grabbed the lead over Cloudy's Knight, and the latter fought back to nearly regain his advantage, but he fell a nose short at the wire.
The Giant's Causeway colt completed the 1 ¾-mile race in 2:54.11, by far the fastest of the five Marathons to be run at that distance. Aidan O'Brien trained the colt for the Coolmore partnership.
Man of Iron's Marathon holds the distinction of being the only Breeders' Cup race – active or defunct – where the highest winning BRIS Speed Rating was earned over a synthetic surface. The race was one of 22 to be determined by the margin of a nose.
Top Five Winning Breeders' Cup Marathon BRIS Speed Ratings
1) Man of Iron, 2009, SA, Rating: 108
2) London Bridge, 2013, SA, Rating: 107
3) Calidoscopio, 2012, SA, Rating: 106
4) Muhannak, 2008, SA, Rating: 99
5 – Tie) Afleet Again, 2011, CD, Rating: 98
5 – Tie) Eldaafer, 2010, CD, Rating: 98
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint
Top Performer: Secret Circle, 2011, Churchill Downs
BRIS Speed Rating: 102
Like the Dirt Mile, the first edition of the short-lived Juvenile Sprint was the best one from a BRIS Speed Rating standpoint, topping the only other running the following year.
Secret Circle entered the fray early, battling with early leader Trinniberg from the two-path and Holdin Bullets another path out in third. He took over the lead from Trinniberg at the end of the long Churchill Downs backstretch, but Trinniberg fought valiantly through the turn to stay in the mix.
Secret Circle took command at the top of the stretch and separated himself from the field by as many as three lengths, but he began to drift out as the finish line approached. Shumoos made a bid from the inside, but Secret Circle outkicked his foe to win by a length. Holdin Bullets carried on for third, 4 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano piloted Secret Circle through six furlongs in 1:10.52 over a good main track as the overwhelming favorite. Bob Baffert trained the Eddington colt for the partnership of Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman.
The Juvenile Sprint was short-lived, but the inaugural race produced two future winners of the Breeders' Cup Sprint: Secret Circle (2013) and Trinniberg (2012).
Top Two Winning Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint BRIS Speed Ratings
1) Secret Circle, 2011, CD, Rating: 102
2) Hightail, 2012, SA, Rating: 97
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