For the first time in the Breeders’ Cup’s nearly 40-year history, a Triple Crown race will be part of its “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series of races.

BC Challenge Series-2019 Classic
The start to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, like last year’s at Santa Anita Park, is like watching an all-star race. This year’s Preakness Stakes sends its winner to the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. (Image: Breeders’ Cup World Championships)

The 145th Preakness Stakes became one of 44 Challenge Series races offering spots in the Breeders’ Cup field over the next two months. Set for Oct. 5 at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, the Preakness is one of three Challenge Series events punching tickets to the Breeders’ Cup’s marquee race – the $7 million Classic.

The final piece to this year’s COVID-19-altered Triple Crown, the Preakness joins the Sept. 26 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park and the Oct. 10 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park as Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series paths to the Classic. All three are Grade 1 events.

This year’s Preakness champion seeks to join some rarefied company. The four horses who won both the Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic epitomize horse racing royalty over the last 30 years: Sunday Silence (1989), Alysheba (1987 Preakness, 1988 Classic), Curlin (2007), and American Pharoah (2015). In American Pharoah’s case, he became the first horse to win the “Grand Slam” — the three Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Classic Company Already Awaits

The winners of those three races join an already formidable six-pack of horses who already seized automatic positions. Headlining that group is Maximum Security, who won last weekend’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He’s one of three Bob Baffert-trainees with tickets to the Breeders’ Cup starting gate. Whitney Stakes winner Improbable and Haskell Stakes champion Authentic are the other two.

Tom’s d’Etat, who won the Stephen Foster Stakes in June, February Stakes winner Mozu Ascot from Japan, and Irish standout Ghaiyyath, who won the Juddmonte International Stakes at York last weekend are the others.

Of the 44 Challenge Series races, 27 are Grade 1 or Group 1 stakes races. Only one of the 44, the Grade 3 Futurity at Belmont Park, is not a Group/Grade 1 or 2.

The Breeders’ Cup Berths One of Racing’s Biggest Days

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland. The two-day race-fest is a bettor’s bonanza, featuring 14 Grade 1 races worth $28 million in prize money. The Challenge Series pays entry fees and guarantees a starting berth for winners of those designated races. In addition, the Breeders’ Cup provides a $10,000 travel allowance for North American starters, and a $40,000 travel allowance for Challenge Series winners from outside North America.

For the last 14 years, the Breeders’ Cup filled much of its fields with the Challenge Series. But this year, officials are dialing long distance for their stretch-drive Challenge Series events. “Win and You’re In” qualifiers take place in six countries over September and October — the US, Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland, and France.

Two of the more prominent international races are the Group (Grade) 1 1¼-mile Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 12, and the Group 1 1½-mile Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp on Oct. 4. Both offer berths into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, considered the second most-prestigious Breeders’ Cup race behind the Classic.

Challenge Series Cards Come With International Flavor

Both Leopardstown and ParisLongchamp built Challenge Series cards. Each track plays host to five “Win and You’re In” events. Belmont Park features five Challenge Series races on Oct. 10. Those trail only Santa Anita’s seven, held on its Sept. 19 opening weekend and the following weekend, Sept. 26-27.

Brazil joins the international parade on Sept. 27 with the 1½-mile Group 1 Premio Brasil. That race sends its champion to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The entire list of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races can be found here.