The measure of what makes a truly great Breeders' Cup performance can be interpreted in any number of ways, but the numbers don't lie.
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 Mile
Top Performer: Ridgewood Pearl, 1995, Belmont Park
BRIS Speed Rating: 117
Ridgewood Pearl made just one North American start in her brief racing career, but she made it count.
The British-bred Indian Ridge filly came into the 1995 Breeders' Cup Mile as a looming international threat, having won five of her seven career starts to that point, including a trio of Group 1 races in Ireland, England, and France.
Off as the post-time favorite, jockey Johnny Murtagh settled Ridgewood Pearl on the hedge in fourth as Fourstars Allstar and Poplar Bluff did battle on the lead. Murtagh kept a tight hold on his mount with his feet firmly on the brakes through the first turn, but the filly still fought her way up to a stalking position behind the leaders.
Irish-bred Fastness made a sweeping move through Belmont Park's wide turns and took control of the lead, while Murtagh placed Ridgewood Pearl three wide and urged her hard to challenge. Fastness and Ridgewood Pearl pushed each other to a wide margin away from the rest of the field, but Ridgewood Pearl found more in the final sixteenth to draw clear by two lengths. Fastness was another seven lengths ahead of third-place Sayyedati.
Ridgewood Pearl was owner Anne Coughlan's lone Breeders' Cup starter thus far. She was the first for trainer John Oxx.
Ridgewood Pearl stopped the clock in 1:43.65 over a soft Widener Turf Course at Belmont- the slowest winning time in the Mile to date by nearly four seconds. Explaining the discrepancy in time versus speed figure, Brisnet's Ed DeRosa said factors surrounding the race – especially the heavy going – made it something of an anomaly to the formulas used to calculate the numbers. However, the filly's powerful performance against a world-class field, factoring in those circumstances, strengthened the number she produced.
“The 1995 Breeders' Cup was held in wet conditions with a soft turf for the day's two turf races: the Mile and Turf,” he said. “Raw times were extraordinarily slow for both of these races, and there is not a lot to compare them to even historically because the 1995 Breeders' Cup Mile is the only one-mile Grade 1 race on soft turf in the history of Belmont Park. More to wit, there have been 15 graded stakes at a mile on soft turf at Belmont Park and 22 such stakes at 1 ½ miles, and the Breeders' Cup races that day were the slowest of those 15 and 22 at both distances.”
While Ridgewood Pearl earned the highest figure among the Mile's winners, Lure deserves an honorable mention in this group for having two of the top four highest BRIS Speed Ratings. The Claiborne Farm runner earned the second-highest figure in 1992 when he earned a 114 at Gulfstream Park, then he came back the following year to notch a 112 at Santa Anita.
Top Five Winning Breeders' Cup Mile BRIS Speed Ratings:
1) Ridgewood Pearl, 1995, BEL, Rating: 117
2) Lure, 1992, GP, Rating: 114
3) Goldikova, CD, 2010, Rating: 113
4) Lure, SA, 1993, Rating: 112
5 – Tie) Royal Academy, BEL, 1990, Rating: 110
5 – Tie) Miesque's Approval, CD, 2006, Rating: 110
Top Performer: Regally Ready, 2011, Churchill Downs
BRIS Speed Rating: 108
The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint was in just its fourth edition when Regally Ready set the speed figure bar for future runners to follow in the race.
Racing for Vinery Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen, the More Than Ready gelding broke sharply out of the gate and was in the hunt for the lead early against pacesetter Rapport. Those two remained practically even through the turn, and jockey Corey Nakatani took advantage of his inside position to cut the turn aboard Regally Ready and push him forward.
A group of challengers appeared poised to strike across the final straightaway, but Regally Ready maintained a cushion against the rest of the field and drove to the wire a length and a half ahead of late-moving Country Day, himself three-quarters of a length better than Perfect Officer.
Regally Ready stopped the clock in the five-furlong race in 56.48 seconds over a Churchill Downs turf course labeled as “good.” It was the fastest of the Breeders' Cup Sprints held at five furlongs until last year, when Stormy Liberal edged him out in 56.12 seconds at Del Mar.
Of the 10 editions of the Turf Sprint to be run so far, the distance between the highest winning BRIS Speed Rating and the lowest is just nine points, which is an interesting statistic considering how much the shape of the race can change from year to year – varying in distance from five to 6 ½ furlongs, and in makeup from the basic one-turn to Santa Anita's downhill course.
Top Five Winning Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint BRIS Speed Ratings:
1) Regally Ready, 2011, CD, Rating: 108
2) Desert Code, SA, 2008, Rating: 106
3) California Flag, SA, 2009, Rating: 105
4 -Tie) Stormy Liberal, DMR, 2017, Rating: 104
4 – Tie) Mongolian Saturday, KEE, 2015, Rating: 104
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