Homeracing

Who Was the Fastest Breeders' Cup Horse of All-Time?

Profile Picture: Adam Spradling

October 25th, 2017

The Breeders’ Cup has every year brought the best horses in North America, and often Europe, to one place. What happens there usually decides who the best horse is in its division.

Given that horse racing is fundamentally about getting from the start to the finish faster than the others, and that the best horses are at the Breeders’ Cup, you might think you’d be able to say what the fastest horse was at that Breeders’ Cup meet. Right?

Well, the answer is more complex. It sounds kind of illogical, but the real answer is that it depends on how you judge what “the fastest” actually means. How do you decide?

If you go purely by ratings such as World Thoroughbred Rankings, BRIS Ratings, Timeform, Beyer, etc, which rank horses according to how good they are at their respective distances, the best horse to run in the Breeders’ Cup is probably last year’s Classic winner Arrogate, who recorded a very high rating in beating California Chrome.

Top Brisnet.com Speed Ratings ever (since publishing began in 1990)

  1. Arrogate 124 (2017 Travers)
  2. Fabulous Strike 122 (2006 Sophomore Sprint Championship)
  3. Congaree 121
  4. Curlin 121
  5. In Excess 121
  6. Midway Road 121
  7. Shirocco 121
  8. Bullards Alley 120
  9. Criminal Type 120
  10. Housebuster 120
  11. Rubiano 120
  12. Shake You Down 120
  13. Wanderin Boy 120

Top Brisnet.com Breeders’ Cup Speed Ratings:

WINNER:
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YEAR:
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RACE:
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RATING:
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TRACK:
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Curlin
2007
Classic
121
Monmouth
Shirocco
2005
Turf
120
Belmont
Saint Liam
2005
Classic
119
Belmont
Corinthian
2007
Dirt Mile
118
Monmouth
Inside Information
2005
Distaff
118
Belmont
Miss Alleged
1991
Turf
118
Churchill
Cigar
1995
Classic
117
Belmont
Fantastic Light
2001
Turf
117
Belmont
Pleasantly Perfect
2003
Classic
117
Santa Anita
Ridgewood Pearl
1995
Mile
117
Belmont
Unbridled
1990
Classic
117
Belmont

Fastest by Seconds per Furlong

The Speed Ratings above are based on speed over 1 ¼ miles, and, in the way that people say 100-meters king Usain Bolt was the fastest runner in the world rather than 5,000-meters star Mo Farah, I’m going to look for the horse that showed the most speed over sprint trips.

The horse that posted the fastest average speed when winning a Breeders’ Cup race was the 2009 Turf Sprint winner California Flag. He covered the 6 ½ furlongs in 1 minute 11.28 seconds, or 10.97 seconds per furlong.

That’s better than the best seconds per furlong rate covered in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint: 11.267 seconds per furlong, recorded by Kona Gold in 2000.

However, times can be misleading given differing track conditions, and California Flag’s record was on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, which is obviously quicker than a flat course.

By historical ratings, Groovy was up with the fastest ever runners at the Breeders’ Cup, having recorded some fantastic speed figures in the mid-1980s. But he wasn’t at his best on what should have been his Breeders’ Cup day in 1987 and was well beaten into second by Very Subtle.

I’m going to go with the 1990 Sprint for the title of fastest horse in the Breeders’ Cup. Hall of Fame mare Safely Kept arrived having won 18 of her 23 races, and was just run down into second in the Sprint the previous year. She faced European sprinter Dayjur, who had thrashed all before him in European turf sprints.



The pair raced well clear of the rest after a speed duel up front, and Dayjur won the sprint battle – before jumping a shadow near the line and losing momentum, allowing Safely Kept to win.

Safely Kept was a great mare – but she would have lost if Dayjur hadn’t jumped that shadow. So I’m going with Dayjur as the fastest horse to run at the Breeders’ Cup – and he wasn’t even a winner. Go figure.
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