The Breeders’ Cup Championship takes place over two days with 15 races where the competition to win each race is very intense.
This is not just another day at the track—every race run over the two days at Santa Anita is an important one, with big purses on the line and owners who have come from all over the world to see their horse in the winner’s circle.
You can imagine that the competition between owners and trainers to get an elite jockey to ride their horse is overwhelming. I spoke to NBC Sports analyst and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stephens about the challenges and rewards of riding multiple horses at the Breeders’ Cup Challenge. He will be part of the broadcast team for the network's coverage of all 15 Breeders’ Cup Championship races.
Have you ridden multiple horses during your many times as a jockey in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge?
Stevens: Yes, I did on multiple occasions have several opportunities, and this year, John Velazquez has 11 mounts, Garrett Gomez 10, Joe Talamo 10 and Joel Rosario 10, so there are multiple jockeys that have several opportunities. The Kentucky Derby is a one and done, and if you have high hopes and you are beaten, it’s a little harder to take. Whereas in the Breeders’ Cup, since you have multiple chances or opportunities for the day, if you get beat on one, you have the luxury of saying forget about that one—it’s turf history.
How do you prepare for riding 10 different horses over two days?
Stevens: You prepare no differently for any one of the races than you would prepare for the other ones, very much how we prepare for this show. We’ve all done our homework, those jockeys have done their homework, and it’s just an exciting day, especially if you have multiple chances or opportunities. It's an exciting day as a jockey and one that comes with great risks by riding in so many races, but also great rewards if you are fortunate to win some races.
How do you see the Breeders’ Cup Classic playing out?
Stevens: There are a number of horses that have outstanding chances. Billy Mott has three runners in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Then there is Bob Baffert with the likely favorite Game On Dude, he’s undefeated on this racetrack. But, as I’ve said before, you can make a case for seven or eight horses in there. If they bring their A game to this race, I think we’re in for a great treat to close out the Breeders’ Cup with and I’m truly looking forward to it.
*All quotes were obtained first hand via a conference call with Stephens set by NBC PR.