Over its 36-year history, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships has seen its share of upsets. Some, of course, were much bigger than others.
Let’s take a look back at the biggest surprises in each Breeders’ Cup race.
CLASSIC: Arcangues, 1993 (133.60-1)
This remains the biggest upset in Breeders’ Cup history, by a considerable margin. A Kentucky-bred based in France, Arcangues (pronounced Ar-KONG) was almost completely unknown to American bettors going into the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. He won a Group 1 race on grass earlier in the year, but had never raced on dirt before. Bettors preferred the three-horse Bobby Frankel trained entry, headlined by leading Horse of the Year candidate Bertrando. The Frankel trio went off as the 6-5 favorite, with beloved California-bred Best Pal right behind them at 9-5. Arcangues, at 133-1, was far and away the biggest longshot in the field.
Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey accepted the mount on Arcangues as he was in need of a mount after the retirement of Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero. He was unfamiliar with the horse’s running style and was unable to understand the instructions given by trainer Andre Fabre’s assistant.
Bailey elected to keep his mount in mid-pack while Bertrando set the pace. As they turned for home, Bertrando remained in front while Arcangues was toward the rail and buried behind horses. In the stretch, a hole opened up just off the rail, and Bailey moved Arcangues through it to get after Bertrando.
Bertrando had no response to his European rival, and Arcangues surged past to win by two lengths and post a monumental upset.
DISTAFF: Spain, 2000 (55.90-1)
The 2000 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs looked like little more than a coronation for Riboletta. The Brazilian-bred mare entered the race having won six in a row and seven of her last eight races, including five Grade 1s. A Distaff win would have made her a potential Horse of the Year contender. Based on her strong resume, she was pounded to 2-5 odds, making her one of the heaviest favorites in Breeders’ Cup history.
Only eight fillies and mares were entered to face Riboletta, including the D. Wayne Lukas-trained 3-year-old filly Spain. She had won two graded stakes earlier in the year, one in July and one in September, but her form was a bit inconsistent. Bettors preferred her stablemate, Surfside, who went off as the 10.30-1 fourth choice. Spain was dismissed at 55.90-1, the second-biggest longshot in the race.
Surfside went out to the lead and set a strong, uncontested pace. She went the opening quarter-mile in :23.24, and the opening half-mile in :46.38. Spain got an ideal trip sitting on the inside off her freewheeling stablemate, while Riboletta raced wide most of the way.
As the field turned for home, Riboletta, done in by her wide trip, came up empty. Meanwhile, Victor Espinoza sent Spain through an opening on the rail and wore down her stablemate. Spain finished 1 ¼ lengths in front, with Surfside holding on for second to complete the Lukas exacta.
TURF: Lashkari, 1984 (53.40-1)
The inaugural Breeders’ Cup Turf, held at Hollywood Park, was supposed to be headlined by the legendary gelding John Henry, in what was to be his final career start. Unfortunately, an injury forced him to miss the race. That left a field of 11 with Majesty’s Prince, a three-time Grade 1 winner in 1984, the 3-2 favorite.
The race attracted several European invaders, but most of them had a prep in the United States beforehand. Lashkari did not, having most recently won a Group 2 race in France. The late-blooming 3-year-old had top European connections, trained by Alain de Royer-Dupré and ridden by Yves Saint-Martin. That didn’t impress American bettors, who sent him off as far and away the biggest longshot in the race.
Early on, Saint-Martin kept Lashkari off the pace and toward the inside. While most of the favorites made wide middle moves, Saint-Martin remained patient. As they rounded the far turn, he angled Lashkari wide and took his shot at the leaders. All Along, the 1983 Horse of the Year, opened a clear lead near the top of the stretch, but Lashkari continued to wear the champion racemare down from her outside flank and fought gamely to win by a neck.
SPRINT: Sheikh Albadou, 1991 (26.30-1)
Housebuster looked like the likeliest winner of the day heading into the 1991 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. He had won four stakes on the year entering the Sprint, including three in a row leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Bettors looked to begin their Breeders’ Cup with some easy money, and made Housebuster the 2-5 favorite.
Europe-based Sheikh Albadou had an impressive resume himself. He won the Group 1 Keeneland Nunthorpe Stakes at York earlier in the year, and finished second in two other Group 1 races heading into the Breeders’ Cup. Despite the impressive performance of European invader Dayjur in the 1990 Sprint, bettors were not impressed with Sheikh Albadou. The lone European in the 11-horse field was sent away at 26.30-1.
California longshot Media Plan zoomed out to the lead and set blazing fractions, going the opening quarter in :21.18. Housebuster broke a bit awkwardly, and was rushed up to rate close to the blistering pace. Meanwhile, jockey Pat Eddery kept Sheikh Albadou off the pace and in the clear.
Turning for home, after a half-mile in :44.44, Housebuster made his move after the leader. However, Shekih Albadou loomed menacingly after the big favorite, having gotten the jump on the rest of the closers without being too close to the hot pace. Housebuster tired badly in the last eighth of a mile, finishing ninth, while Sheikh Albadou cruised to a three-length win.
MILE: Court Vision, 2011 (64.80-1)
Perhaps the biggest story going into the 2011 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs was Goldikova. The year before, she became the first horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race three times in a row, winning the Mile in easy style. She looked to make more history by winning her fourth consecutive Mile, and was the 1.30-1 favorite to do so.
Nobody paid much attention to Court Vision. Although the 6-year-old was a multiple Grade 1 winner in his career, he looked as if his best was far behind him throughout his 2011 campaign. He hadn’t even hit the board in four races on the year finishing seventh in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile in his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup. He was given a 64.80-1 chance in the Mile, making him far and away the biggest longshot in the race.
Early on, this deep closer looked up against it. He was a distant 12th early on in the field of 13, while early leader Get Stormy set a slow early pace. As they rounded the turn, Robby Albarado moved Court Vision five wide while Goldikova was completely blocked with nowhere to run turning for home.
In the last eighth of a mile, Goldikova angled wide and got clear, but Court Vision was absolutely flying on the outside. Court Vision wore down the three-time Mile winner, then held off the frantic surge of fellow closer Turallure to win by a nose. He paid a whopping $131.60 to win on a $2 bet in his final career start.
JUVENILE: Storm the Court, 2019 (45.90-1)
Eight horses entered last year’s TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park, but only three looked to have a serious shot to reach the winner’s circle. Dennis’ Moment, off a very impressive win in the Iroquois Stakes, was the 9-10 favorite, California-based Eight Rings was the 3-2 second choice of a win in the American Pharoah Stakes, while Iroquois runner-up Scabbard was the 5.60-1 third betting choice. Storm the Court, who lost to Eight Rings by 8 ¼ lengths in the Grade 1 American Pharoah in his final prep, was not considered a contender.
Things got interesting early on, when Dennis’ Moment stumbled and fell far behind. Flavien Prat took advantage and sent Storm the Court to the lead. He set temperate fractions of :23.49 and :47.07. As they turned for home, 28-1 Anneau d’Or loomed large alongside Storm the Court, while Eight Rings remained in contention, less than a length off the lead.
Just when it looked as if Storm the Court would soon be overwhelmed, he showed tremendous heart. Eight Rings gave way as Anneau d’Or battled on gamely, but Storm the Court would not relinquish the lead. He held on to win by a head with Anneau d’Or holding on for a clear-cut second. Fellow longshot Wrecking Crew rallied late for third to complete a trifecta that paid $1,965.25 for 50 cents.
JUVENILE FILLIES: Take Charge Brandi, 2014 (61.70-1)
D. Wayne Lukas had a renaissance year in 2013. That May, he won the Preakness Stakes with Oxbow and later in the year he sent Will Take Charge to victories in the Travers Stakes, Pennsylvania Derby, and Clark Handicap. Had he won a photo for the win over Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he might have been Horse of the Year. As it turned out, his accomplishments still earned him the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old male.
Lukas hadn’t quite been able to keep the momentum going in 2014, and going into the 2014 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies it didn’t look like Take Charge Brandi would help Lukas add to his list of Eclipse Award winners.
After breaking her maiden at Churchill Downs in June, she lost four stakes in a row. In the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland, she was forced into setting a fast pace, and tired badly.
Take Charge Brandi was sent off as the biggest longshot in the field of 12 in the Juvenile Fillies. Just like the Alcibiades, Take Charge Brandi was sent right to the lead and set blazing fractions of :22.22 for the first quarter-mile and :45.99 for the half. While most bettors were expecting her to give way on the turn, Take Charge Brandi found another gear.
As many of the favorites fell flat, the longshot maintained her advantage in the stretch, holding off the late surge of Top Decile to win by a half-length and stun the Santa Anita Park crowd.
Take Charge Brandi wasn’t done yet. Taking to heart the phrase “strike while the iron is hot,” Lukas entered her in two more stakes that year, the Delta Downs Princess Stakes and the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes. His filly won both, and went on to win the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly.
FILLY AND MARE TURF: Shared Account, 2010 (46-1)
Shared Account was a disappointing fifth in the Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park in her final Breeders’ Cup prep after getting a great trip. Meanwhile, European star Midday was the 9-10 favorite in the 11-horse field for the Emirates Airline Filly and Mare Turf.
Shared Account got a similar trip in the Breeders’ Cup to the one she did at Belmont, rating off the pace on the inside. This time, however, it paid off. Turning for home, six contenders were stacked across the track, but most of them had been forced wide in the midst of their rallies. Meanwhile, Edgar Prado kept Shared Account glued to the rail, and when a hole opened up towards the inside she burst through. In a blanket finish, Shared Account got the nod by a neck over Midday, who raced a few paths farther off the inside than the winner.
FILLY AND MARE SPRINT: Bar of Gold, 2017 (66.70-1)
Bar of Gold’s campaign in 2017 was all over the place. She raced on dirt, grass, and synthetic surfaces, and she competed in sprints and two-turn races up to 1 1/8 miles. She was the favorite in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland in her final Breeders’ Cup prep but had no rally and was sixth.
Off that race, her connections elected to cut her back to seven furlongs for the Filly and Mare Sprint. She wasn’t completely out of place in that race — she was second in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs two starts before the Breeders’ Cup — nonetheless, the betting public thought she was up against it.
It ended up being a desperate victory by a nose but a win nonetheless. After sitting far behind early, she was angled off the inside by Irad Ortiz Jr. and took her shot down the center of the stretch. Ami’s Mesa, who had defeated her at Presque Isle Downs, had control in the last sixteenth, but Bar of Gold surged late to prevail in a thriller.
TURF SPRINT: Desert Code, 2008 (36.50-1)
Richard Migliore had accomplished a lot in his career going into the 2008 World Championships at Santa Anita Park. However, he had never won a Breeders’ Cup race. That didn’t look very likely to change going into the inaugural Turf Sprint.
Desert Code won the Joe Hernandez Stakes on the 6 ½-furlong downhill turf course earlier in the year, but his form had been spotty afterward. Most recently, he was seventh in the Morvich Handicap going down the hill at Santa Anita. Despite that win at Santa Anita, bettors made him the biggest longshot in the 14-horse field.
Those who believed in “The Mig” were well-rewarded. Desert Code was 12th early on and remained far behind as they made their way down the hill and into the stretch. With a brutally fast pace in front of him, including an unbelievable half-mile of :41.81, Desert Code had the perfect setup to rally for the win and that’s exactly what he did, surging on the outside to win by a half-length. After more than 25 years of riding, and more than 25,000 mounts, Migliore finally had his Breeders’ Cup victory.
DIRT MILE: Dakota Phone, 2010 (37.70-1)
Dakota Phone had danced just about every dance for older males in California in 2010, but was rarely the top dog at the end. In 10 starts entering the Breeders’ Cup, he had just one 2010 stakes win on his resume: the San Diego Handicap. Bettors did not view him as a win candidate, making him the longest shot in the 12-horse field.
Joel Rosario immediately took his mount to the back of the pack. After a quarter-mile, he was more 13 lengths off the pace. Turning for home, he Rosario launched five-wide rally under Dakota Phone, but the duo remained far out of it. Rosario kept him to task down the stretch, and he gobbled up enough ground late to nail Pennsylvania Derby winner Morning Line at the finish line and win by a head.
JUVENILE TURF: Nownownow, 2007 (12.60-1)
The first edition of this race produced what remains its most surprising result. In the inaugural Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park in 2007, Nownownow sported a respectable resume. He won the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga, then finished second in the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland. Still, bettors preferred European invaders, largely ignoring the American-based Nownownow, perhaps because steady rain that weekend had softened the ground considerably.
Julien Leparoux kept Nownownow well behind early on the yielding turf, reserved last in the 12-horse field most of the way. Turning for home, he was still last but Leparoux angled him six wide for the stretch run and the duo closed like a freight train. Under vigorous urging, he reached the front in the last few jumps to win by a half-length over favored European invader Achill Island.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF: Sharing, 2019 (13.80-1)
Another Graham Motion-trained runner finds herself on this list. Sharing was a two-time winner going into last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf, including a win in the Selima Stakes at Laurel Park in her first race around two turns. She got a great trip in that race, and bettors didn’t quite believe in that big effort going into the Breeders’ Cup.
As it turned out, her 2 ½-length victory in the Selima proved no fluke. Manny Franco rated her just off the pace, then nudged her on the final turn. She outkicked her rivals in the stretch and won by 1 ¼ lengths for the surprise win.
JUVENILE TURF SPRINT: Bulletin, 2018 (4.30-1)
This race has been held only two times. Its first running produced the biggest upset, as the Todd Pletcher-trained Bulletin led from start to finish. Last year’s edition was also a gate-to-wire win, but it came courtesy of 3-2 favorite Four Wheel Drive.