Every year, the road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships starts months before with a series of qualifying races that are known as the Breeders‘ Cup Challenge Series. The series has expanded over the years and it has consistently given fans and bettors a preview of some of the runners who’ll vie for Breeders’ Cup glory in the fall.
Below are some fun facts to know about the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series and the “Win and You’re In” races that will lead all the way up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup on Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2.
1. This year marks the 13th year of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships date back more than two decades earlier, having been first run in 1984.
2. The 2019 Challenge Series actually began in 2018. The first race of the series was the Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini at San Isidro Racecourse in Argentina. It was a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf and it was won by a horse named Il Mercato.
3. The 2019 Challenge Series features the first-ever European “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the Juddmonte International at York Racecourse in the United Kingdom.
4. Television coverage of 20 challenge series races can be found on 11 NBC and NBC Sports Network broadcasts throughout the year, kicking off on Belmont Stakes day, Saturday, June 8. Click here to add the TV schedule to your calendar.
5. The series began in 2007 with 24 "Win and You're In" races from two countries. By 2014, it consisted of 71 races across 13 countries. For 2019, there are 86 races in the series that will take place in 11 countries.
6. It was longshot Bolo, at odds of 32-1, who kicked off the 2019 United States series with his victory in the Shoemaker Mile. The victory earned him an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Mile. As with all “Win and You’re In” races, Breeders’ Cup will also cover his entry fees for the race.
7. There will be three Challenge Series races that take place on Belmont Stakes day: the Jaipur Invitational, the Ogden Phipps Stakes and the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap.
8. In 2018, there were 35 Breeders’ Cup Challenge winners who ended up participating in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
9. Back-to-back TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Roy H prepped for his 2017 and 2018 victories by capturing the “Win and You’re In” Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
10. Other 2018 Breeders’ Cup winners who earned berths through the Challenge Series included Classic winner Accelerate, Sistercharlie (Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf), Game Winner (Sentient Jet Juvenile) and Jaywalk (Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies).
11. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk won the Frizette Stakes a month before the World Championships in one of the final qualifiers of the Challenge Series in 2018. Before her, the last 2-year-old filly to go on to win at the Breeders’ Cup after winning the Frizette was My Miss Aurelia in 2011.