The Most Iconic Thoroughbreds in Breeders’ Cup History

The Breeders’ Cup is among the biggest and most anticipated sports events in the United States. On November 3-4, 2023, the 40th season of the Breeders’ Cup will finally happen at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. The event can be live-streamed nationwide through streaming platforms like NBC, Peacock, and USA Network.

Though there will be Grade I events in late November and December, the Breeders’ Cup is considered the end of the North American season since it’s the last big event to feature the top-rated thoroughbreds of today’s generation. What’s more, the race will determine the majority of the winners in many of the Eclipse Award divisions.

Legendary Horses in History

Many look forward to the big races in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park. While waiting for the two-day event, spectators and bettors can check TVG breeders cup 2023 predictions, guide, and betting odds. As we count the days, let’s look back at the legendary horses that participated in the Breeders’ Cup.

With a long, rich horseracing history, the Breeders’ Cup has hosted the most iconic races featuring the fastest thoroughbreds in the industry. Let’s review which thoroughbreds have become a household name in North America’s illustrious horseracing culture.

American Pharoah

American Pharoah is the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion. He was sired of Pioneerof the Nile out of Littleprincessemma. This bay colt was bred and owned by Ahmed Sayat. He was trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, who also trained the 2018 Triple Crown Winner Justify.

He was the first thoroughbred to complete the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing by winning The Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. American Pharoah also broke the track record by more than five seconds, recording 2:00.07 in the race. His decisive victory earned him  $2.75 million. He ended his racing career with nine victories and a second in his 11 career starts, with a lifetime earning of $8,650,300. Notably, he was the second fastest horse to finish the Belmont Stakes, following Secretariat in 1973. 

Besides winning the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2015, American Pharoah also claimed the major titles in Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, and Haskell Invitational in the same season.


Sired by Street Cry out of Vertigineux, Zenyatta won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The dark bay mare was owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and was trained by John Sherriffs. Zenyatta was the first mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In addition, she was also the first horse to win two different Breeders Cup races. Because of these iconic titles, she was named the runner-up of tennis hero Serena Willians for the  2009 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. In the same season, Zenyatta won other major titles like the Milady Handicap, Vanity Handicap, Clement L. Hirsch, and Lady’s Secret Stakes.

Zenyatta was also awarded the American Champion Older Female Horse in 2008, 2009, and 2010. She was also named the American Horse of the Year and received the Secretariat Vox Populi Award in 2010.


Tiznow won the 2000 and 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was sired by Cee’s Tizzy out of Cee’s Song. The brown stallion wa initially owned by Cecilia Straub-Rubens and Michael Cooper in 2001 and was later owned by Cees Stable in 2001. Tiznow was trained by Jay M. Robins. He won the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic by a neck against Irish Champion Giant’s Causeway. He was named the 2000 Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old with his win.

Tiznow earned his second 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic title the following year, making him the first horse to win the race twice. Tiznow also won significant races like Affirmed Handicap, Super Derby, and Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap in 2000. The following year, he also won the San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes and the Santa Anita Handicap. He was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.


Beholder won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and the  2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She was sired by Henry Hughes out of Leslie’s Lady. The bay mare was bred by Clarkland Farm and owned by Spendthrift Farm. Beholder was the first horse to win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Distaff in consecutive years.

She was named American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in 2012, American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly in 2013, and the American Champion Older Dirt Female Horse in 2015 and 2016. He was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.


Goldikova was the only thoroughbred to prevail in three Breeders’ Cup Mile races in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The bay mare was sired by Anabaa out of Brushing Groom. She was bred and owned by Wertheimer et Frère and was trained by Freddy Head. Some of her major wins include the Prix Jacques Le Marois and Falmouth Stakes in 2009 and the Queen Anne Stakes, Prix de la Forêt , and  Prix d’Ispahan in 2010.

Final Thoughts

Many thoroughbreds have participated in large racing platforms like Breeders’ Cup. However, only a few horses will remain iconic to the race fans. With their impressive racing records and legendary success stories, the horses covered in this list are considered the most iconic thoroughbreds in Breedewrs’ Cup history.