This article appeared in the November 2010 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
A fast field of sprinters turned for home at Churchill Downs, and with the notable exceptions that the purse of the race was $1 million and 66,000 fans were in the stands, the six-furlong race was shaking out about the same as thousands of others run over the decades at the Downs — until one horse, Sheikh Albadou, shot from the pack as if he had jets on his legs.
Flying in the middle of the track, the English-bred colt, which almost no one had given a thought to previously, was winging it home at 26-1, with jockey Pat Eddery riding high in the stirrups, flopping his elbows in time with the horse. Like a happy Irish cowboy whooping it up on Friday night at the rodeo.
It was another shocker in the Breeders’ Cup. And few saw it coming, because everybody knows that sprinting on the dirt is an American game. Besides, we’d been assured by experts with sniffy British accents that Sheikh Albadou was a second-tier horse, at best, in England, here mainly because he’d won some Group I race named for Lord Nunthorpe, or the Duke of Earl, or something. If one wished to see the good horses from Britain and Ireland and France, they’d be along later for the longer turf races.
And just as a matter of history, Sheikh Albadou was a son of Green Desert, who had, himself, come over from Great Britain for the first Breeders’ Cup Sprint — and run last.
But there the Sheikh was, the runaway winner. And there we racing experts were, the runaway losers.
Kind of like the old Chuck Berry song: Goes to show you never can tell.
Or, maybe more aptly for the Breeders’ Cup, which returns to Churchill Downs Nov. 4-5 for the eighth time in its 28-year history: Who in the heck knows what in the world we’ll see next?
From the beginning, when rock-solid favorite Chief’s Crown won the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile like a rock-solid champion, to the last we heard from the Breeders’ Cup, when a tremendous roar rolled through the Downs as Zenyatta came flying from so far back — with Blame not about to let her catch him — it’s always a great show. Chock-full of stories.