Spur of the moments: Stories from Breeders' Cup racing history [Breeders' Cup]

Horse for the course

Goldikova has a simple style. She runs along with the pack, then pulls out to pass — and blows ’em away.

And that style, shooting out of the bunched horses and finishing fast through the stretch, is often a winning style in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. A notable exception was the Claiborne Farm turf star Lure, who led wire-to-wire two years in a row (1992-93). But more often than not, the Mile is won from behind, with a brilliant late burst of speed. Like Royal Academy, who came from 13th to win the 1990 Mile by a neck. Or the royally bred Miesque, waving bye-bye to a pack of mere horse mortals, running out of a pack to win the 1987 and ’88 Miles going away.

No miler today is better at this style than Goldikova — a six-year-old Irish-bred who has won 17 of 24 starts, 14 of them Grade I or Group I races, and banked $6.6 million. The French-based filly has won the Breeders’ Cup Mile a record three straight times, and is expected back this year to try for a fourth.

Daily Racing Form handicapper Marcus Hersh notes that Goldikova’s style makes her particularly effective on American turf courses. In Europe, one-mile races are generally contested around one turn, or even on a mile-long straightaway. Last out of the gate at Longchamps, in Paris, Goldikova was beaten a head by a three-year-old colt in an extended stretch duel. That race, the Prix de la Foret, winds around one “bend” with a long run to the finish. At Santa Anita in California, where Goldikova took the 2008 and ’09 Mile, and at Churchill Downs, where she won last year, seven-furlong turf courses are fitted inside one-mile dirt tracks — which means the race includes two pretty sharp turns, for which Goldikova is perfectly suited.

Just minutes after Goldikova came flying to win the Mile last fall at Churchill Downs, Gerard Wertheimer, who owns the horse with his brother Alain, told Thoroughbred Times writer Ed DeRosa that Goldikova would be pointed right back to this Breeders’ Cup Mile. Putting her out to pasture as a broodmare could wait.

“We think the Thoroughbred industry needs to do a better job keeping stars in racing,” said Wertheimer. “Especially fillies bring people to the races. If they stay only a short time, then people don’t get interested. The sport identifies with stars, like it did with Zenyatta. It’s a good habit to keep them in training.”

And keeping the stars like Goldikova around is just what Mr. Gaines hoped his Breeders’ Cup could do.