(Edited press release)
Officials of Breeders’ Cup Limited and six of the nation’s premier racetracks launched the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, a series of 24 officially sanctioned qualifying stakes races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge, highlighted by its “Win and You’re In” format, will for the first time, automatically place the winners of the 24 stakes held between July 28 and Oct. 8 into a corresponding divisional race for the 11-race, $23 million Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Monmouth Park Oct. 26 and Oct. 27.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge begins July 28 at Saratoga Race Course, with four qualifying races, headlined by the $750,000 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) for 3-year-olds and up. The Whitney winner will gain an automatic starting position into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I). In addition to the Whitney, there are three other Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on the July 28 program: the $500,000 Diana Handicap (gr. IT) for fillies and mares on the turf for a position in the $2-million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT); the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) for a position in the $2-million TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I); and the $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) for a position in the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I).
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge, which will be televised on six live programs by ABC/ESPN as “Breeders’ Cup Challenge – Presented by Emirates Airline,” will continue Aug. 11 with qualifying races at Arlington Park; followed by races at Del Mar Race Track Aug. 19; Belmont Park Sept. 30; Keeneland Race Course Oct. 6; and Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park Oct. 7.
“The Breeders’ Cup Challenge give sports fans an easily understood ‘Win and You’re In’ playoff concept that has been successful in other sports,” said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Greg Avioli. "Since announcing the series last fall, we have received widespread industry support from our participating racetracks and our horsemen for the Breeders’ Cup Challenge. Working in concert with our network partner ESPN, we are excited about expanding the Breeders’ Cup brand to our sport’s most prestigious races leading to the Championships.”
Until the advent of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, qualifying for Breeders’ Cup World Championships races, with a maximum of 14 starters, was limited to those horses that accumulated the seven highest number of Breeders’ Cup points earned through competition in American graded stakes races during the first 10 months of the year. The remaining seven horses were selected by the Breeders’ Cup Racing Directors Secretaries Panel.
This year, with the exception of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, which is limited to 12 starters, starting fields for each Breeders’ Cup World Championships race will be determined in the following manner after pre-entries are received Oct. 15: (1) Breeders’ Cup Challenge winners, who will earn a starting position in a corresponding Breeders’ Cup divisional race. (2) The next horses will be ranked on the total number of Breeders’ Cup points collected during the year until seven horses have been ranked based on Breeders’ Cup Challenge races and Breeders’ Cup points. (3) The remaining seven horses will be ranked by the Racing Director/Secretaries Panel.
There are four Breeders’ Cup Challenge races for automatic starting positions in the $5 million Breeders’ Classic – Powered by Dodge; four for the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff; four for the $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf; five for the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint; three for the $3 million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf; three for the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf; and two for spots in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Able One, a 4-year-old New Zealand bred, became the first horse to earn a Breeders’ Cup starting position through the International Breeders’ Cup Challenge when he won the Champions Mile (HK-I) April 29 at Sha Tin Race Course in Hong Kong. Able One earned one of the four Breeders’ Cup Challenge automatic spots in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
In Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, all Breeders’ Cup-nominated horses that finish in a non-purse-paying finishing position shall receive 2% of the advertised guaranteed purse as a participation award from Breeders’ Cup Ltd.
In addition, representatives of the Breeders' Cup announced that all 11 races of the two-day 2007 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be webcast to a worldwide audience live on a new and improved official Breeders’ Cup Web site.
The Breeders' Cup and ESPN Radio have teamed to give away six VIP trips for two to the 2007 Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
An actual working four-stall starting gate, adorned with Breeders’ Cup Challenge branding, will be the centerpiece of the promotion, making appearances at high traffic locations in Breeders’ Cup Challenge markets. Fans will be able to enter to win wherever the Challenge Starting Gate appears. They will also be able to meet leading jockeys and trainers at the Starting Gate appearances, have commemorative photos taken and emailed to them, and receive other giveaways and prizes.
Fans may also enter to win via the official Breeders’ Cup Web site, www.breederscup.com. In addition to the six trips for two in the sweepstakes, ESPN Radio via ESPNRadio.com will give away a seventh trip exclusively to ESPN Radio listeners.