For years, horse racing has been irrelevant to the general public, save for the three days the three legs of the Triple Crown are run each year.
The sport, which fell much in the way boxing did, achieved great relevancy for a month at a time when horses over the years have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and entered the Belmont with the chance to win the Triple Crown last accomplished by Affirmed in 1978.
But when the trifecta fell short, the conversation about horses like Real Quiet, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones and Big Brown halted. When a Triple Crown wasn't on the line? Well, just look at last year, when neither the Kentucky Derby winner nor the Preakness winner even raced in the Belmont, ABC saw record low ratings.
What makes this Saturday so surprising is that it's the first weekend in November and the Kentucky Derby is still five months away. But on the very same track where that race will take place, Churchill Downs, a horse that never ran in a Triple Crown race has arguably become the biggest star in the sport in three decades. That it would come from a horse who started her career at three, the age at which Triple Crown horses are in their prime, makes the story even better.
"There's no question that we were looking to the left and she came from the right," says Greg Avioli, Breeder's Cup CEO.