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Breeders' Cup Traditions

The Trophy, Flowers, and Cocktail

By

The Breeders' Cup Trophy

The permanent Breeders' Cup Trophy on display in the paddock at Churchill Downs

© Cindy Pierson Dulay

Since the Breeders' Cup World Championships are usually held at a different race track each year, there are not many traditions associated with it beyond having the best quality horse racing of the year. There are only two things that are always constant from track to track: the trophy and the flower blankets for the winners.

The Trophy

The permanent Breeders' Cup trophy is a reproduction of Giovanni da Bologna's sculpture the Torrie horse. Created in the late 1580s in Florence, Italy, the sculpture is known as an ecorche or flayed horse, detailing all the horse's muscles.

The original sculpture may have been a study made for a statue of Duke Cosimo I which was completed in 1591 and stands in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. The sculptor's oringal bronze ecorche was acquired in the early 1800s by Sir James Erskine of Torrie, who bequeathed to the University of Edinburgh. It is currently housed in the university's Museum of Fine Arts in Scotland.

The Breeders' Cup trophy was cast from the original and the replica is owned by Breeders' Cup Ltd. It travels to the host track each year where it is displayed for the public, usually in the paddock or some other central location. At Santa Anita, it is displayed beside the fountain at the granstand entrance.

The winner of each Breeders' Cup Championship race is presented a trophy which is a smaller replicas of the permanent trophy statue. These smaller trophies are done in bronze, but in 2008 only they were changed to silver for the 25th running, going back to bronze in 2009. You can see a close-up of the silver trophy here. This one is the generic trophy you see used in the winner's circle on race day. A personally engraved trophy is sent to each winner afterward.

Starting in 2012, the Breeders' Cup Championship Race winning trainers, breeders, and jockeys will receive a Lalique crystal replica of the trophy. You can see a photo of this new trophy here. For the Breeders’ Cup Trophy, Lalique artisans achieved tremendous detail in recreating the champion horse using a mix of clear and frosted crystal.

The Flower Blanket

Each winner of the 15 Breeders' Cup Championship races also receives a blanket of flowers which is draped across his or her withers, if the horse cooperates. Each blanket is made of yellow chrysanthemums outlined with purple chrysanthemums and has a round purple cloth plaque with the Breeders' Cup logo and the name of the race embroidered on it. The blanket is topped in the center with a bouquet of more chrysanthemums plus white orchids and greenery. It measures 96 inches in length and is roughly hour glass shaped, with a long, narrow center section that goes across the horse's back and wider ends that hang by his or her sides. You can see Zenyatta wearing her flowers after the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic here.

Each winner also receives a purple horse blanket with the name of the race on it. You can see 2007 Turf winner English Channel wearing his blanket here. Starting in 2011, each entrant also received a purple "starter" blanket to wear on the walk over to the paddock for saddling.

The Down the Stretch Cocktail

Starting in 2007, the Breeders' Cup has featured a cocktail created by sponsor Grey Goose vodka called "Down the Stretch" as their signature drink. The recipe has changed each year as they tweak it, with the 2010 version being a purple color garnished with a blackberry and a lemon wedge. You can see a photo and the current recipe here.

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