Further trying to incentivize participation in its dirt races, the Breeders’ Cup announced a participation bonus for connections of dirt horses – the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen. The 12-race program encompasses existing graded stakes races scheduled from now through October at six US tracks.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Dozen
Before the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen program was announced, Obligatory (5) captured the first race of the new incentive-based program, winning the May 7 Derby City Distaff. (Image: Coady Photography)

The Dirt Dozen awards bonuses for first through third-place finishes. The bonuses are meant for horsemen to use as entry fees in one of six Breeders’ Cup dirt races: the $2 million Distaff, the $2 million Sprint, the $2 million Juvenile, the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, and the $1 million Dirt Mile.

Dirt Dozen races at the $2 million level award $30,000 for first, $15,000 for second, and $7,500 for third. Races at the $1 million level come with $15,000 bonuses for first, $7,500 for second, and $3,750 for third.

Note that these are different than the Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races. Those come with an automatic berth, and with all entry fees paid.

Incentive program digs in the dirt for competitors

The Dirt Dozen program came about largely because, with the exception of the flagship $6 million Classic, the Breeders’ Cup turf races are often more popular than their dirt counterparts. Those races are often oversubscribed, loaded with European competitors who run solely on grass. The Breeders’ Cup is also trying to get more trainers and owners up and down the food chain involved.

“In our continuing efforts to support horsemen, the new Dirt Dozen program is an innovative way to provide credits which can be put toward entry fees for runners to compete in the dirt races of the World Championships,” said Dora Delgado, the Breeders’ Cup’s executive vice president and chief racing officer in a statement. “We look forward to connections taking advantage of the incentives of the Dirt Dozen program and seeing them at Keeneland this November.”

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen

Division Date Race Track Grade Distance
Dirt Mile July 30 San Diego Hdcp Del Mar II 1 1/16 miles
Dirt Mile TBD Kelso Belmont Park II 1 mile
Distaff July 2 Fleur de Lis Churchill Downs II 1 1/8 miles
Distaff Oct. 2 Zenyatta Stakes Santa Anita Park II 1 1/16 miles
Filly & Mare Sprint May 7 Derby City Distaff* Churchill Downs I 7 furlongs
Filly & Mare Sprint Aug. 28 Rancho Bernardo Del Mar III 6 1/2 furlongs
Juvenile Sept. 11 Del Mar Futurity Del Mar I 7 furlongs
Juvenile Sept. 17 Iroquois Churchill III 1 1/16 miles
Juvenile Fillies Sept. 4 Spinaway Saratoga I 7 furlongs
Juvenile Fillies Sept. 17 Pocahantas Churchill Downs III 1 1/16 miles
Sprint July 2 Smile Sprint Hdcp Gulfstream Park III 6 furlongs
Sprint Oct. 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Santa Anita Park II 6 furlongs

*Obligatory won the Derby City Distaff, claiming the $15,000 first-place credit

The Dirt Dozen program kicked off on May 7 with the Derby City Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard. That gave the winner, Obligatory, a $15,000 credit toward entry fees to the Filly & Mare Sprint. Runner-up Four Graces earned a $7,500 credit and Just One Time a $3,750 credit for finishing third.

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Keeneland for the second time in three years on Nov. 4-5.