Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breeders' Cup Hero: Tikkanen

The winner of the 1994 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs was Tikkanen (pictured), who was dead last the first time the field of fourteen passed beneath the Twin Spires and was first when it counted most under jockey Mike Smith. Tikkanen paid $35.20 to win in the 1994 Turf, mainly because third-place finisher Paradise Creek was less than even-money to win. After the favorite, the next two favorites were both 7-1, so Paradise Creek getting beat was clearly a large upset. Tikkanen at 16-1, though, was somewhat of an overlay, especially given that he had won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational before that Breeders' Cup triumph. He managed to set a track-record for the 1 1/2 miles distance at Churchill Downs. Tikkanen was never able to recapture that form after those two Grade 1 wins. In fact, he ended with only four lifetime victories from his eighteen career starts, earning a total of $1,599,355.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Tikkanen is where his name came from. He was named for famed National Hockey League enforcer, Esa Tikkanen. Tikkanen started his career in Edmonton, where he played with, among others, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Tikkanen also played with the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, and Washington Capitals during a career that produced five Stanley Cup victories. You might wonder about the connection between hockey and horse racing here, well, the horse's owner was George Strawbridge Jr., who was active in running the Buffalo Sabres franchise for over thirty years. Also, it is worth mentioning that the National Hockey League season kicks off on October 6 and I, for one, am deliriously happy about that.

If you would like to relive Tikkanen's 1994 Breeders' Cup Turf victory, here is the link: Tune in again tomorrow for a look at Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

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