Harrisburg, PA --- This Saturday marks the 30th set of races in the Breeders Crown Series, something you probably know by now. Something you may not know is another milestone; this Saturday marks the 20th year of the Breeders Crown featuring 12 championship races.
In the beginning -- 1984 -- the Breeders Crown had only eight events, the ones for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds. In its second year, 1985, it added one older event on each gait, open to both sexes. It was only in the third year, in 1986, that the first appearance of 12 championships occurred. And then, between and including 1996 to 2003, eight years, the Open Mare Trot was not raced.
So for two-thirds of its existence after Saturday, the Breeders Crown will have been raced in its 12-event format.
Want to take a guess at which driver (or drivers) has a win in each of the 12 categories? Please go right ahead -- pause your reading right here, and make your mind up. We’ll wait for you.
(Is it the obvious one?) No, I can’t give any hints. Just make your best guess.
Ready? Got your ideas?
OK, here’s the answer -- nobody has won all 12 divisions of the Breeders Crown championships!
Two drivers have won 11 of the 12 -- the “obvious one,” John Campbell, the Crown all-time leader with 46 victories, and Ron Pierce, who has 26, one behind second-place Mike Lachance.
Lachance is one of three drivers to have won in 10 categories; the other two are Brian Sears (fourth with 23 wins, and among drivers with $3 million in Crown earnings, the leading UDR driver at .316) and David Miller. Miller is an interesting case; he has “only” 12 Crown triumphs (“only” being a relative term, of course, best explained by the fact that Miller was just voted into the Hall of Fame), but he won 10 times in different classes, having won two classes twice -- and he has no repeat Crown wins with the same horse! (Campbell, in contrast, has guided 10 different horses to multiple Breeders Crown victories.)
So -- will any of these drivers complete the “charmed circle of a dozen” this Saturday?
Campbell’s sole missing category is with the older trotting mares -- not surprising if you remember that this class has been raced in only 20 of the 30 years; very surprising if you remember Campbell as the regular driver of Peace Corps, the only horse to have won four Breeders Crowns! Campbell guided her to Crown glory at two and three, but by her older form she had shifted to overseas interests, and Stig H. Johanssen and Torbjorn Jansson were her pilots in her two wins in this class.
This year Campbell has Bax Of Life, an elimination winner, in this sole category to have eluded him, and she’s the third choice on the morning line. The scary thing is, if Campbell and Bax Of Life look to their left as they are in behind the starting gate, they will see Maven and Check Me Out to their inside. I can think of many, many combinations of horses I’d rather have inside of me than those two -- but Campbell is, after all, “The Master.”
The one category that has yet to yield a triumph for Pierce is the sophomore colt pace, the glamour division, and Ron’s ride, Beach Memories, landed post two. But talk about frightening looks to the inside -- if he or his horse turn their eyes leftward behind the gate, they’ll only see Captaintreacherous. Enough said.
Probably because the class has not raced every year, as noted, Lachance and Miller find the OTM one of the two sections they lack a win in. Lachance has no scheduled drive in this race at this point; Miller has the millionairess Beatgoeson Hanover, but she shook the difficult seven pill.
The other class Lachance has not conquered is the older trotting males (hard to believe that as good a trot driver as Mike has won neither of the older trotting events), and again Lachance finds himself on the outside looking in, with no drive scheduled.
Ditto with Miller in the other trophy he’s missing, in the freshman colt pace -- no scheduled drive.
Brian Sears was the other driver with 10 different class wins, and he does have a mount in both his “missing” sections -- in the 2TF, he has the literal and figurative outsider Goddess, but his chances are a bit better in the 2PC, with 5-1 Ari Allstar from post three.
And what of Yannick Gingras and Tim Tetrick, who have nine morning line favorites between them in the 12 Crown races. How do they fit in this conversation?
Well, Gingras still has a ways to go, because when he won three races in the 2012 Crown series, the number was two more than the entire number of Crowns he had ever won before! He thus now has four Crowns, including two in one division -- the 3TF -- to go along with his 2012 wins in the 2TF and 2PC. Yannick has five favorites among his 11 Saturday drives (ironically, the only race he’s scheduled to sit is the 3TF -- the one where he already has two wins), and “could add four classes” in this exercise we are doing here should he win with all the chalk, as he has the 2PC favorite.
Tim Tetrick has ten Crown winners, 40 percent of them coming last year, in seven classes. He has no wins in the 3TC (where he has Smilin Eli at 4-1), and amazingly, not a win in any 2-year-old category! Many thought he had a good chance last year, but…well, for George’s and Myron’s sakes, let’s not go there. Interestingly, he has a drive in all of Saturday’s 2-year-old classes, but none are favored, while he is the pick in four of his other seven drives (again a bit surprisingly, he has no mount in the free-for-all pace).
So there’s a look in “filling in this scorecard” as far as top drivers trying to win in every Breeders Crown class. The chances seem less than 50-50 anyone will get the perfect card this weekend, and of course there are little matters like $5.75 million in purses and Horse of the Year honors at stake -- but we hope we have given an interesting insight, a unique angle on the time-proven phrase “It all comes down to the Breeders Crown” -- and all of its 12 divisions.