Breeders' Cup expands Challenge bids to 49
NEW YORK -- The Breeders' Cup Challenge enters its second year, with the winners of 49 designated races -- more than double the number in 2007 -- earning automatic bids to the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 24-25.
The expansion of the "Win and You're In" format was announced Thursday. The Breeders' Cup recently added three races to the two-day event at Santa Anita, increasing the event to 14 races worth $25.5 million.
Among new tracks added to the mix are Woodbine in Toronto, with six races in the challenge, Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash., Delaware Park in Wilmington, Del., and Calder Race Course in Miami.
Five races will be automatic qualifiers for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, which has a 14-horse maximum field. Those races are the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga (July 26), Pacific Classic at Del Mar (Aug. 24), Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs (Sept. 20), the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont (Sept. 27) and the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita (Sept. 27).
"Following last year's successful launch of the Breeders' Cup Challenge, there was a great deal of interest from tracks around the country and internationally to be part of the series," Breeders' Cup president Greg Avioli said in a statement Thursday. "That interest led to the expansion of the Challenge."
Last year, 14 of the 24 horses who earned automatic berths ended up running in a Breeders' Cup race.
Owners of the winning horses in the challenge races still have to pay entry fees to compete. In the Classic, for example, the entry fee for nominated horses is $120,000.
The challenge begins with the Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park on July 5 and closes with three races at Keeneland on Oct. 5, the Spinster Stakes, the JP Morgan Chase Jessamine and the Woodford Reserve.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press