Breeders' Cup: Top 12 international winners

September 19th, 2022

International competition is an essential element of the Breeders’ Cup, going back to its inaugural in 1984. Here are the 12 best internationals who starred at the World Championships.

Enable – 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)

One of the all-time greats for Juddmonte, Enable cultivated an historic profile early in her career and kept enhancing it through the age of six. The John Gosden trainee romped in the 2017 Yorkshire Oaks (G1) in then stakes-record time, captured the Irish equivalent, and became the first winner of that classic double to add the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) over older males. Enable would win the King George an unprecedented three times, and Europe’s fall championship, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), twice, among her haul of 11 Group 1 victories.

Although Enable’s overall resume, by definition, puts her in the top rank of Breeders’ Cup winners, she stands alone in the record book for winning the Arc and the Turf (G1) in the same season. Indeed, reigning Arc winners had consistently been a losing proposition when attempting to follow up in the Breeders’ Cup. Enable defied that Arc “jinx” in the 2018 Turf at Churchill Downs. Her achievement was all the more special since she repelled another outstanding filly, Magical, in a stretch battle.

Goldikova – 2008-10 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)

French queen Goldikova won the Mile (G1) for three consecutive years, becoming the lone three-peater in Breeders’ Cup history. Only one other champion, fellow Hall of Famer Beholder, has won three times at the Breeders’ Cup, but in different races – the Juvenile Fillies (G1) (2012) and Distaff (G1) (2013, 2016).

Goldikova’s first two Mile wins came at Santa Anita in 2008-09, followed by the 2010 edition at Churchill. The Wertheimer et Frere homebred almost made it four in a row back at Churchill, only to finish a close third in her career finale in 2011.

Collecting a European record 14 Group 1 wins, Goldikova also beat males in such majors as the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot and the Prix d’Ispahan (G1) twice. She defeated fellow distaffers in the Prix Rothschild (G1) four times. If she hadn’t bumped into the outstanding Zarkava at three, Goldikova would have had a classic trophy on her mantle as well.

Miesque – 1987-88 Mile

The original French mile ace was Miesque, who burst to a course-record win at old Hollywood Park in 1987. The Niarchos family homebred encountered slower conditions in her 1988 title defense at Churchill, but the rain-affected course couldn’t dent her superiority. Miesque rolled to another Mile victory, becoming the first two-time winner in nascent Breeders’ Cup history. She was ridden by Freddie Head – the future trainer of Goldikova.

Miesque already had historic stature in Europe. The champion two-year-old developed into a dual classic winner at three, crossing the Channel to capture the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket before returning home to conquer the French equivalent. Miesque beat older males in both the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) and Prix du Moulin (G1), and repeated in the Marois at four, to mention only some of her 10 career Group 1 titles.

Daylami – 1999 Turf

Daylami was a French classic winner at a mile for his owner/breeder, The Aga Khan, but blossomed as an older campaigner for Godolphin. His four-year-old season in 1998, highlighted by victories in the Eclipse (G1) and Man o’ War (G1), proved to be just an appetizer for what was to come. It also left a Breeders’ Cup what-might-have been, since Daylami had to scratch from that fall’s Turf. Considering that he’d previously beaten 1998 Turf winner Buck’s Boy, might Daylami have captured that edition too?

At the peak of his powers in 1999, Daylami won four of his last five starts to reshape his legacy. His only blip in that span was a ninth in the Arc, where he could not use his trademark power in the heavy going. Otherwise, the stout gray was unbeatable in the Coronation Cup (G1), King George (by five lengths), Irish Champion Stakes (G1) (in a nine-length rout), and ultimately the Breeders’ Cup. Daylami put an exclamation point on his career, and dethroned Buck’s Boy, in the Turf at Gulfstream Park.

Fantastic Light – 2001 Turf

Somewhat like Godolphin confrere Daylami, Fantastic Light excelled as a five-year-old under the tutelage of Saeed bin Suroor. He didn’t compete in the classics at three, but had a progressive profile for original trainer Sir Michael Stoute through 1999. Fantastic Light built upon that foundation in 2000, breaking through with his first Grade 1 coup in the Man o’ War, adding the Hong Kong Cup (G1), and going close in a few other majors, among them a troubled fifth in the Turf.

Fantastic Light enjoyed a banner 2001, featuring an epic decision over Galileo in one of the greatest renewals of the Irish Champion. He was turning the tables after the younger Galileo beat him in the King George. Fantastic Light also gained compensation in the Turf at Belmont Park, where he blitzed to a course-record 2:24.36.

Pilsudski – 1996 Turf

Stoute is a master of carefully nurturing a horse to peak performance with maturity, and Pilsudski provides a case study. Indeed, the four-year-old was just beginning to blossom when upsetting favored stablemate Singspiel in the 1996 Turf at Woodbine. Pilsudski had turned the corner that fall, with an initial Group 1 tally in the Grosser Preis von Baden (G1) and a second in the Arc.

But he’d prove even better in 1997. At five, Pilsudski won the Eclipse and Irish Champion, finished runner-up in the Arc for the second straight year, and ended on high notes with scores in the Champion (G1) (then at Newmarket) and the Japan Cup (G1).

High Chaparral – 2002-03 Turf

The first two-time Turf winner, High Chaparral had an exalted resume in Europe as a dual classic hero. The Aidan O’Brien pupil flashed talent as a juvenile when landing the 2001 Racing Post Trophy (G1), but the blueblood had Derby (G1) potential stamped all over him. He fulfilled that promise at Epsom in 2002, beating vaunted stablemate Hawk Wing. High Chaparral completed the double in the Irish Derby (G1), and capped his season with a fluent success in the Breeders’ Cup at Arlington.

In a 2003 campaign limited to the second half, High Chaparral won the Irish Champion (G1) over Falbrav, placed third in the Arc for the second straight year, and mixed it up in one of the most memorable runnings of the Turf. High Chaparral collared Falbrav again at Santa Anita, only to have horse-for-the-course Johar join him on the wire. After what felt like an eternity of analyzing the photo finish, officials declared a dead-heat for the win.

St Nicholas Abbey – 2011 Turf

As a stylish Racing Post Trophy winner with a pedigree for the classics, St Nicholas Abbey was the longtime antepost favorite for the 2010 Derby. Unfortunately, injury ended his Epsom dreams, and he had to earn his stripes as an older horse. He did so, becoming a cherished fixture at Ballydoyle until his untimely passing.

“St Nick” was at his best going 1 1/2 miles left-handed. In those optimal conditions, he won an unprecedented three runnings of the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom (2011-13), beat Japanese celebrity Gentildonna in the 2013 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and accelerated to glory in a particularly heartwarming Turf in 2011. Joseph O’Brien was aboard for father Aidan at Churchill. St Nicholas Abbey returned for the 2012 Turf at Santa Anita, finishing a close third at the end of a long, busy campaign.

Highland Reel – 2016 Turf

Another globetrotting warrior for Ballydoyle, Highland Reel was effective from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 miles, as long as he got his prerequisite of reasonably good ground. The Galileo colt scored major wins on three continents and famously placed on another when third to the great Winx in Australia’s Cox Plate (G1) in 2015. That sophomore campaign marked his top-level breakthroughs in the Secretariat (G1) at Arlington and Hong Kong Vase (G1).

As an older horse, Highland Reel proved capable of lifting such British Group 1s as the King George, Coronation Cup, and Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot. His tactical speed was a weapon, as wielded in his front-running tour de force in the 2016 Turf at Santa Anita. A 2017 setback put him behind on fitness going into his Del Mar title defense, and he did well to place third. Highland Reel moved forward to win the Hong Kong Vase for a second time and bow out on top.

Found – 2015 Turf

While Found amassed many more minor awards than wins, the O’Brien filly had a knack for choosing the right time to shine. She advertised her potential at two by garnering the 2014 Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), missed narrowly in majors early in 2015, and took a summer break. Then the exceptionally hardy daughter of Galileo crammed five starts in barely more than two months, culminating in her upstaging Golden Horn in the Turf at Keeneland. Golden Horn was all the rage after sweeping the Derby, Eclipse, Irish Champion, and Arc, beating Found in the latter two. But Found was a different proposition in softer conditions in their Breeders’ Cup rematch, outdueling Golden Horn by a half-length.

It was a similar story in Found’s four-year-old campaign, as she won only twice, but one of those was the 2016 Arc. She placed in her other eight starts, including a third in the Turf to stablemate Highland Reel. Thus Found, who had denied Golden Horn an historic Arc/Breeders’ Cup double, experienced a similar fate as the reigning Arc winner herself. Still, she’s the first to win both a Breeders’ Cup race and the Arc, albeit not in the same season.

Ouija Board – 2004 and 2006 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)

British superstar Ouija Board, the only two-time winner of the Filly & Mare Turf (G1), might have managed a three-peat if injury hadn’t blighted her 2005 campaign.

A homebred for Lord Derby, Ouija Board turned the 2004 Epsom/Irish Oaks double, finished a mighty third in the Arc, and crowned her sophomore season in the Breeders’ Cup at Lone Star Park. She was on the comeback trail the following fall, getting in just one prep before placing second to front-running Intercontinental in the 2005 Filly & Mare Turf at Belmont Park.

Ending the year on a high note by beating males in the Hong Kong Vase (G1), Ouija Board put together a complete 2006 campaign crisscrossing the globe. Her most prestigious win as a five-year-old came in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot, and she underlined her status as a Breeders’ Cup legend when regaining the Filly & Mare Turf crown at Churchill in 2006.

Pebbles – 1985 Turf

The first British-based Breeders’ Cup heroine, Pebbles had made history at home as the first female ever to win the Eclipse. Her brilliant turn of foot also propelled her to victories in the 1000 Guineas in 1984 and Champion in 1985, but she’d never attempted 1 1/2 miles until the Turf. Pebbles proved just as devastating over the longer trip. Bursting through on the rail, she set an Aqueduct course record that stood for almost 37 years.