The 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Winner: Alphabet Soup
The 1996 Breeders’ Cup became the first Breeders’ Cup to be held outside the United States, and Toronto was a superb guest. A party in the Skydome was held, and hockey was part of the festivities with the Maple Leafs playing at home. The $4 million Classic featured the overwhelming 3-5 favorite Cigar, who had won 16 straight races prior to this race including the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1995. The 1995 and 1996 Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse, Cigar was expected to extend his dominating streak and go into the record books again in his final race.
But it didn’t happen. A nearly all-white horse named Alphabet Soup was set to shock the racing world and make his own history at 19-1 odds. Alphabet Soup didn’t win his first stakes race until he was a 4-year-old. In 1996 leading up to the Classic, Alphabet Soup had finished 1st or 2nd in six of his seven graded stakes starts. But in the Classic, he was up against the sensational Cigar (Jerry Bailey) and Preakness winner Louis Quatorze (Pat Day), who went off at 18-1 odds.
The early pace was swift, and Atticus (7-1) went along the lead through the mile marker. As they turned for home, 101-1 super long shot Mt. Sassafras took the lead and tried desperately to hold on down the stretch. But Alphabet Soup, Louis Quartorze and Cigar all fought valiantly alongside, and the final furlong produced a fantastic finish. Only a nose and head separated the three at the wire. Jockey Chris McCarron worked hard aboard Alphabet Soup, and got him to stick his head in front of Louis Quartorze in the final sixteenth as Cigar ranged up on the outside. Alphabet Soup pulled the shocking upset, but it took a track record to get the victory in a final time of 2:01.00.
Alphabet Soup stole the show and paid $41.70 to win, $15.30 to place and $6.80 to show. Louis Quartorze returned $13.00 and $6.00 and Cigar paid $2.40 to show. Mt. Sassafras finished 4th a half-length behind. A $2 exacta paid $485.60 and a $2 trifecta returned $1,288.20.