The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues to grow and improve since its inception in 2007 when the original concept was comprised of 24 “Win and You’re In” races in two countries. The 2017 Challenge Series features 81 automatic-qualifying races into corresponding races of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 13 different countries, including 49 races in North America.
Now in its 11th year, the Challenge Series has enjoyed a global expansion and in 2017 will include qualifying races in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Japan, Germany, Ireland, Peru, and South Africa, in addition to the U.S.
The 34th Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held for the first time at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif., on Nov. 3-4 with television coverage provided by the NBC Sports Group.
The Breeders’ Cup and NBC Sports also will ramp up television coverage of the Challenge Series with 11 Win and You’re In Series presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing telecasts scheduled for 2017.
Now in its fourth year on NBC and NBCSN, the Challenge Series television lineup for 2017 has been enhanced with the addition of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17, which will be the first U.S. “Win and You’re In” for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic; the Grade 1 Arlington Million from Arlington International Racecourse on Aug. 12; and the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, also a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, on Aug. 19 at Del Mar.
Last year 43 Breeders’ Cup Challenge winners participated in the Breeders’ Cup. Two of those Challenge winners won Breeders’ Cup races: Classic Empire in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Highland Reel in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
There are seven races in the Challenge Series that will award automatic berths to the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic:
- February Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 19, won by Japanese-bred Gold Dream who is now qualified for the Classic.
- Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17
- Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 30
- Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 5
- TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 19
- Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Sept. 30
- Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 7
The series also includes three new qualifying races: the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes on June 10, a qualifying race for the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint; the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine on July 2, which offers a starting spot in the Turf Sprint; and the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes, a qualifying race for the Filly and Mare Turf, on Oct. 7 at Keeneland.
“We are very proud of the increased popularity and participation of horsemen around the world, who take advantage of the benefits of an automatic berth and paid entry fees offered through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge as the best way to secure a starting position in the World Championships,” said Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive officer. “Our racetrack and racing association partners are also a major part of the success of the series and we thank them for their participation in the program.”