Breeders' Cup 2005

Review

posted 10/28/2005 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: Xbox

For as long as I can remember, my father (and his father before him) have been big horse racing fans.  In fact, for the last 20 years or so, my dad has bred and raced Standard bred harness racers.  Harness racing, for those that aren't familiar with the term, are the ones that pull cart (called a sulky) behind the horse rather than have a jockey on the horse's back.  The type of racing that involves a relatively small, light weight person clinging to the back of the horse and holding on for dear life is known as Thoroughbred racing.  At this point, you are more than likely thinking, "Gee, that's fascinating, but why are you telling me this?

Well, I'll tell you.  In the extremely crowded market of console-based sports games, there are very few that break from the mainstream stick, ball, and/or puck pursuits and delve into some of the niche sports such as horse racing.  Bethesda Softworks is one of those that is willing to push the boundaries and explore new opportunities.  An example of this is the recently released Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships for the Xbox.  While it is not harness racing, it is close enough to have piqued my interest, so I decided to take a look at it.

As is the case in many sports, the horse racing enthusiast can choose to concentrate on certain aspects of the sport, or go the whole hog and participate in all aspects.  In horse racing this means one can simply buy a horse and race it, or go the full route of breeding, training, and racing a horse.  Breeders Cup supports both choices.  As in many console games, you can choose a quick play mode, or you can dig down into the esoteric details that truly give a sport its long-term challenge and interest.

With horse racing, it all comes down the breeding.  Volumes and volumes of historical data pertaining to the lineage and race performance of horses are perused in an attempt to find the perfect sire/dam combination that will result in a race-winning foal.  As with any pursuit of this nature, however, there are no guarantees.  A mating that looks great on paper may or may not result in a horse that will perform as desired.  This is, of course, the reason they actually put the horses on the track and race them, and is what provides the addictive nature of horse racing to its participants.  Hey, if it was easy everyone would be doing it!

Breeders Cup starts you off with an empty six horse stable and a little bit of cash.  It is up to you to decide how to populate the stable and determine the strategy for growing your racing dynasty.  There are three possible approaches: acquisition of already racing horses through claiming races (races in which every horse entered can be bought, or "claimed," for a stated price), breeding, or a combination of the two.  Claiming a horse has the benefit of being able to base a purchase decision on known performance, while breeding offers the opportunity to try to tailor the resulting race horse to your favored track type, race type, and horse disposition.

Track types can be dirt or turf.  Race types can be sprints, medium length, or long.  Horse disposition is a combination of factors such as speed, strength, running style, and temperament that will determine the best way to race the horse.  For example, a horse with a lot of strength will fare better in long races than a horse that can sprint well but hasn't the strength for a long race.  A horse with good temperament will perform better racing in a tight pack of horses, while a horse with poor temperament will likely perform better as a front runner where it needn't be in close contact with the rest of the racers.  Other important factors are the fitness, fatigue, and injuries.  Fitness, achieved through specific training regimens, will allow for higher stamina and less chance of injury.  Fatigue, resulting from too much racing, will result in a poorly performing race. 

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