The Breeders’ Cup is North America’s premier major graded stakes horse racing event of the year. There are 13 races on the card featuring some of the top thoroughbred horses in the world. This year’s event will take place at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky on October 30-31.
Leading up to this highly anticipated event there are a number of qualifying races that are commonly referred to as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series were you “Win and You’re In”. The following is a look at a few of the winners in some of the early Challenge series races for the Breeders’ Cup biggest events.
Breeders’ Cup Turf
The Longines Turf is a Grade 1 stakes race on turf over a distance a 1 ½ miles for thoroughbreds three-years old and up. The total prize purse for the Turf is $3 million.
This race attracts a truly international field with champions of a Challenge series race from countries such as New Zealand to Brazil expected to compete for the second largest purse in this very lucrative two-day event.
Last weekend in the $500,000 Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, Big Blue Kitten came away with the victory to secure his spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Joe Bravo, this seven-year old colt continues to be extremely productive with finishes in the money in seven of eight races dating back to last August. He ran in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2013 and finished eighth.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
The Mile is for three-year old thoroughbreds and up and it is run on turf. The total prize purse for this race is $2 million.
Some of the world’s best grass milers are expected to compete in this year’s event and horses such as Futura from South Africa and Kermadec from New Zealand have already won a Challenge series race this year.
The $400,000 Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita Park was recently run on June 13 and French horse Talco made his way to the Winner’s Circle to punch his ticket to this year’s Turf. This four-year old colt is trained by John Sadler and he is ridden by Rafael Bejarano. In 15 lifetime starts, he has finished in the money 12 times including five victories.
Last November at Del Mar in California, Talco finished third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby behind Lexie Lou and the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.
The next Breeders’ Cup Challenge race in North America for this year’s Mile will be the $1 million Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto on Sept. 13, so you might want to start looking at the betting odds!
Breeders’ Cup Classic
The Classic is the biggest Breeders’ Cup race in the two-day event with a prize purse of $5 million. It is for three-year olds and up and ran on dirt over a distance of 1 ¼ miles. The field is limited to 14 horses and seven of those entries will gain an automatic berth with a victory in a Breeders’ Cup Challenge series event.
The first qualifying race was the $500,000 Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 13. Noble Bird outdueled Lea and Hoppertunity to claim the victory in this “Win and You’re In” event. This four-year old colt is trained by Mark Casse and he has now finished first or second in his last four races.
The $500,000 Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 27th was the second race on the schedule and five-year old Hard Aces took the first-place prize ahead of Hoppertunity and Catch A Flight. This thoroughbred is also trained by John Sadler.
The next qualifying event on the schedule for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is the $1 million Grade 1 William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2. The big news surrounding this year’s race is that Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is expected to be in the field; hey keep this in mind when making your sports picks.