The Breeders' Cup has conducted a major overhaul of its "Challenge" series that guarantees winners of designated stakes races berths in one of the 14 races of its annual year-end event, dropping 24 races from last year's schedule and adding 27.
As part of the revamping, Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for any horse who wins a Challenge race, provided the horse has been nominated. Breeders' Cup will also provide $10,000 in a travel allowance to U.S. based horses who win one of the Challenge races, and $20,000 to foreign-based horses. The 2011 Breeders' Cup will be held Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs, the second year in a row that the event will be run at the Louisville, Ky., track.
The overhaul brings the total number of races in the series to 68, up from 65 last year. Fifteen Grade 1 or Group 1 races were added to the schedule this year, while eight Grade 1 or Group 1 stakes were dropped from the schedule, according to information provided by a spokesperson for Breeders' Cup, Jim Gluckson. Of the eight dropped Grade 1 or Group races, four were held in foreign countries.
According to Gluckson, Breeders' Cup decided to overhaul the schedule in order to "provide a better focus on quality races."
In the most prominent changes, six races will now offer the winners a guaranteed spot in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest race on the 14-race card, up from four last year. Added to the schedule this year are the Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in New York, and the Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Dropped from the schedule was the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park near Chicago.
The other Grade 1 races added to the schedule this year include the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park, offering a guaranteed spot for the Breeders' Cup Mile; the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga (Juvenile); and four races at Belmont Park's fall meeting: the Beldame Stakes (Ladies' Classic), the Flower Bowl Invitational (Filly and Mare Turf), the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (Turf), and the Vosburgh Stakes (Sprint).
Ten new races in foreign jurisdictions were added to the schedule this year, and six were dropped, bringing the total to 18. The Group 1 races that were added include the Takarazuka Kinen (Turf) at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan, the first race in Japan to be added to the schedule; the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Turf) in France; the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Turf) in England; and the Prix de L'Opera in France.
The revamping of the schedule follows several moves Breeders' Cup has made in the past 12 months in order to encourage participation in its year-end event, especially among foreign horses. In addition to providing travel allowances and entry fees to owners, Breeders' Cup will also pay $10,000 to the nominator of any horse who wins a Breeders' Cup race. And, to boost the number of horses eligible to participate in the races, Breeders' Cup launched a special "open enrollment" program this year that expires on June 30. Under the program, any non-nominated horse in the world who is by a nominated sire can be nominate to the Breeders' Cup for a one-time fee depending on age. The yearling fee is $3,000, the 2-year-old fee $6,000, and the 3-year-old or older fee is $25,000.
The 2011 Breeders' Cup will be held Nov. 4 and 5 at Churchill Downs.