Just Classic

By John Boyce

First run 33 years ago, the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic has become the race that the American breeding industry has come to rely on as the most likely to produce a top-class sire. Its distance of 10 furlongs guarantees that its winners ought to be well placed to sire the winner of America’s other top race, the GI Kentucky Derby. In fact, this has happened only once so far in its short history when Breeders’ Cup winner Unbridled sired the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone. Surprisingly, only five times since the inception of the Breeders’ Cup have Derby winners gone on to land the Classic. And until American Pharoah triumphed in 2015, 25 years has elapsed without a single winner of both races. Prior to that, there was a golden age. Between 1986 and 1990 all male Derby winners (Winning Colors won the 1988 renewal) went on to land the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

For the record, in the 33-year period Breeders’ Cup Classic winners have sired 13,093 starters of which 1,062 have become Stakes winners. That’s a very healthy strike rate of 8.1%. In the same period, Derby winners have had 12,581 starters and 715 Stakes winners, a strike rate of 5.7%. The best sire by percentage of Stakes winners to foals to emerge from both races in the period is A. P. Indy, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic but could conceivably have also won the Derby had he not been scratched on the morning of the race through injury when a warm favorite.

 

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