The Breeders’ Cup Trotdown

Here’s your crib sheet on the sport without feet. 

Presented by Breeders’ Cup

Welcome to the most entertaining thing on four legs since cowboy monkeys on dogs. But before we venture any further, ask yourself three simple questions:

A) Are you pro making money?

B) Do you appreciate the majesty of the best thoroughbreds in the world all under one super fun venue?  

C) Do like having fun?

If you answered “no” to any of those queries, then you might be a sociopath. Now go shop on As for the rest of you? Say hello to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. A 31-year-old ode to silly hats, big bets and more than one or two adult beverages.

The History

The event was first conceived back in 1982 by pet food heir and thoroughbred owner John Gaines. Three decades later, the now 48-hour party is generally considered to be one of the richest sporting events in the world.

The Host

Keeneland racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky is your point of entry—and what an entrance it is! This national landmark of a horsey house has changed little since it’s inception in 1936. So much so that the 2003 movie Seabiscuit filmed most of its key scenes there due to the track’s un-CGI’ed authenticity. This year marks the first time Keeneland hosts the Cup, and with it comes plenty of fun diversions within the surrounding area…

Breeders’ Speak #1: Stalker [staw-ker] noun – A horse that runs just behind the leaders, (the term can also apply to a stallion who leaves vaguely threatening voicemails on various mares’ iPhones).

The Histrionics

Bring a rain jacket but avoid the kind of electronics that not only might get wet, but also could get you kicked out. “They usually don’t allow laptops,” advises Anthony Affrunti, a 40-year-old sports journalist, handicapper and author who’s currently working on a book about New York-based racing.. “And often times they won’t allow umbrellas or selfie sticks because they freak out the horses.” So much for that dual-purpose umbrella selfie-stick we just invented, (patent pending!). Oh, as for betting advice? Affrunti warns against cluttering the beginner’s brain with too much information. Rhymes the writer: “Study long, study wrong.” 

Breeders’ Speak #2: Totalisator [toht-l-uh-sey-ter] noun – Also known as the “Tote Board”. This infield-located bit of infotainment lists the odds for each equine, total dollars bet on them to win, place and show as well as all manner of other facts, tidbits and recipes. (Okay…not so much with the recipes.)

The Hodgepodge

You’re in Kentucky. So you’re going to drink bourbon. That’s just kind of how it works. The go-to Lexington bar for such alcoholic urges is The Bluegrass Tavern. With 230 options of brown bottles to choose from, you’ll soon realize that you’re in the state house of the actual state that invented this type of whiskey. And then you’ll realize that you’ve lost your phone. And if you’re still able to speak the Queen’s English the next morning? The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ain’t gonna tour itself:

Breeders’ Speak #3: Paddock [paduh k] noun – An area on the track where horses get saddled up before battle, and patrons get one last look as to how relaxed, alert and ready their prospective pony looks, before the bet.

The Hungry

Maxim likes steak. And history. Columbia Steakhouse (i.e. Lexington’s longest running restaurant) has both in spades. Originally run by the local mafia as a gambling front, 68 years ago, the venue has since dropped the crime connections while maintaining their reputation for serving up the best beef tenderloin a win, place or show can buy.

Breeders’ Speak #4: Blinkers [bling-kers] noun – A hood worn by a horse to keep it’s focus straight ahead, rather than on that fetching beer helmet the dude in the 3rd row is wearing.

The Hesitance

Lexington, Kentucky’s ballyhoo, bombast and—lets face it—bourbon can seduce even the most financially conservative of neophytes when it comes to betting with more bucks than you brought/have. “Use your last couple of dollars to buy a beer and a hot dog and relax,” says Affrunti. He also suggests you bring a wad of cash, while leaving the credit/debit cards at home. (The Maxim staff has already placed $50 for the win on this being the number one bit of advice you’ll end up ignoring.)

The Horse

Did we mention it’s American Pharaoh’s last hurrah? The first Triple Crown winner’s goodbye tour culimates in the $5 Million Breeders’ Cup Classic, which could make him the first four legged fella to win the Grand Slam, (i.e., winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the aforementioned BCC). If that isn’t something to one day tell your grandkids about, then we don’t know what is. Well maybe that AND an occasional “I love you” every once in a while. Grandkids need to hear these things, you guys.