The race is billed as an international event. Starting in 1984, John Gaines’ idea of a championship day of racing came to fruition at the now-defunct Hollywood Park in Inglewood (now SoFi Stadium).
One afternoon 37 years ago, no one could ever have imagined that a special commemorative day of thoroughbred competition would lay the foundation for what is today known as the Breeders’ Cup.
The two-day event features the crème de la crème in horse racing.
To me, the Breeders’ Cup is like Christmas Day (and after Jesus, it’s no. 2). So far, I’ve been to a dozen races. And I will cherish forever the memories from watching superior equine athletes perform at their optimal. But making new friends who remained close over the years has truly been my reward.
The Breeders Cup was, and always will be, the Super Bowl of racing. Year after year, it continues to attract a core audience of thoroughbred breeders who bought into the program and watched it grow and prosper.
History is so important and relevant in talking sports and the Breeders’ Cup like so many others has theirs.
In 1995, my vision was to produce a weekend thoroughbred horse racing radio show. The only problem was I didn’t have a radio station. Flying back from my father’s funeral, I thought maybe a Las Vegas station would be interested in my show.
The next day, I called my friend Charles in Vegas and asked him to rip out the radio stations in the yellow pages (back then, there were no computers, Google, or any other way to easily find information other than a phone book).
The same week, Charles mailed me the contacts and I started calling a handful of radio station owners to ask them if they would be interested in airing a thoroughbred horse racing show on their station. I struck gold with a man named Jerry Kutner, who owned KVEG 840 AM in Las Vegas.
Kutner liked the idea and we struck a deal for a show every Saturday and Sunday morning over the station’s 50,000-watt clear-channel powerhouse that had a reception in five surrounding states.
I would either drive or fly to Vegas every weekend for the broadcasts and then return to Solana Beach, my second hometown.
Then one weekend, I met my radio partner after literally bumping into him at the MGM Grand Casino. His name was Ken Daniels, but I immediately started calling him KD, and he became my co-host of the Thoroughbred Hot Line Radio Show for 15 years.
We began a radio relationship that truly changed the game of thoroughbred horse racing. (KD and I are responsible for changing the antiquated black-and-white saddle cloths to vibrant colored fabrics for all competition horses, allowing fans to clearly see their numbers instead of guessing. It took us 10 years to get all the racing venues to buy in but they did, the last of which being the Breeders’ Cup.)
KD and I worked the Breeders’ Cup like no one’s business. He did the selecting and I did the interviewing. We were a match made in horse heaven and we added to its illustrious history.
During the years, KD not only released lobsters (a term we used for the long price, long-shot horses that won) but our guest list was top shelf — the who’s who in racing circles, including owners, trainers, jockeys, celebrities, racing aficionados and anyone who would brighten the purple royalty that the Breeders’ Cup represents.
Our biggest radio broadcasts were on the second day of the world-class thoroughbred racing event. And we saved our best for the ultimate best — the Breeders’ Cup. Every year, the finest jockeys and horses delivered on the biggest stage and captured us all. KD passed away in April 2015.
This weekend, the 38th Breeders’ Cup returns to Del Mar for the second time since 2017. All indicating points lead us to expect tremendous moments of greatness and lifelong memories that can’t be erased. Gaines would never believe what his idea and concept have led to, and neither can we.
This Friday and Saturday, history will be made once again right in our own back yard, “Where the turf meets the surf.” Welcome back, Breeders’ Cup, you served us well.
Join us for Race & Sports Radio’s special Breeders’ Cup broadcast at 9 a.m. Saturday morning on the Mightier 1090 AM or online at themightier1090.com.