The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Wednesday that television viewership for the first four shows of its "Road to the Breeders' Cup World Championships -- Powered by Dodge" was up 45% over last year's numbers. In total, 1,668,000 households tuned in for the four shows on the ESPN family of networks, compared to 1,138,728 in 2005 and 1,267,403 in 2004. The opening quartet of programs featured the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) from Churchill Downs, the CashCall Mile (gr. IIIT) from Hollywood Park, the Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I) from the Curragh, and the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) from Hollywood Park. The horseracing shows have received more prominent promotion on the ESPN networks this year because of ESPN's upcoming inaugural presentation of the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 4. The racing shows are previewed on ESPN's "SportsCenter" programs, and results appear on the networks' sports tickers."The sustained, multi-platform promotion that horse racing and the Breeders' Cup World Championships enjoy as part of our relationship with ESPN is a major contributing factor in the increase in viewers thus far in 2006," said Greg Avioli, interim CEO of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup Limited.The next "Road" show will air Sunday, July 16, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and will feature the $1 million Delaware Handicap from Delaware Park.