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 the 39th Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5, at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.
1. This year marks the 15th 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 2022 Challenge Series actually began in 2021. 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 Village King.
3. Television coverage of Challenge Series races can be found on nine NBC Sports Network broadcasts throughout the year. The coverage began on June 11 with three “Win and You’re In” races from Belmont Park. The next of the remaining eight broadcasts is Saturday, July 2 on NBC starting at 4 p.m. ET from Churchill Downs, featuring the Stephen Foster Stakes. The Stephen Foster is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.
4. 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 2022, there are 82 races in the series that will take place in 11 countries.
5. This year marks the debut of the Breeders’ Cup regional Challenge Series program for North American races. In 11 of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, the series will feature three “Win and You’re In” races, one each corresponding to a specific region: East, Midwest, and West. The goal is to promote regional rivalries during the buildup to the Breeders’ Cup. The exempt races are the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and the Longines Classic. The Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf will each have two domestic “Win and You’re In” races while the Longines Classic will have six.
6. On Memorial Day, Count Again kicked off the 2022 United States series with his victory in the Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita Park. The victory earned him an automatic berth into the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile. As with all “Win and You’re In” races, Breeders’ Cup will also cover his entry fees for the race.
7. Three more “Win and You’re In” races were held on the June 11 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets undercard in New York. Flightline, Clairiere, and Casa Creed won the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, Ogden Phipps Stakes, and Jaipur Stakes and earned automatic berths to the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, respectively.
8. In 2021, there were 40 Breeders’ Cup Challenge winners who ended up participating in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar. Five of them ended up winning a Breeders’ Cup race.
9. Longines Classic winner Knicks Go led that quintet. The eventual 2021 Horse of the Year earned his “Win and You’re In” berth last August at Saratoga Race Course when he won the Whitney Stakes. Other 2022 Breeders’ Cup winners who earned berths through the Challenge Series included Longines Turf winner Yibir (prepped in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes), Filly and Mare Sprint winner Ce Ce (prepped in the Princess Rooney Stakes), TVG Juvenile Presented by TAA winner Corniche (prepped in the American Pharoah Stakes), and NetJets Juvenile Fillies winner Echo Zulu (prepped in the Frizette Stakes).
10. Nine “Win and You’re In” races for Breeders’ Cup 2022 will be held at Keeneland Race Course, site of this year’s World Championships. They’ll run over a jam-packed Fall Stars Weekend from Friday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 9, and provide horses a chance to run over Keeneland’s main track and turf course a month ahead of the premier Breeders’ Cup events.