By Claire Crosby, Breeders’ Cup ― Winning is just the beginning for lucky contenders in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In. With the international series already underway, runners based in North America get their chance at the action starting May 29 when the domestic portion of the series kicks off with the $500,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series consists of 80 graded stakes races worldwide, the winners of which receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Fans can visit BreedersCup.com/tickets to peruse a variety of seating options for the 40th running of the Championships, which are scheduled to be held Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
The winner of the Shoemaker Mile, contested over a mile on the turf, will receive an automatic starting position with fees paid into the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). The Shoemaker Mile is the first of 41 Challenge Series races in North America this year and will be televised live on FanDuel TV.
In the U.S., 11 of the 14 divisions comprising the Breeders’ Cup World Championships races will be represented by one Challenge Series winner per region (East, Midwest, and West). The winner of the Shoemaker Mile will be the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Western region representative in the World Championships. The Aug. 12 Fourstardave Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course (East) and the Oct. 7 Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland (Midwest) are the other regional qualifying races in the U.S. for the FanDuel Mile division.
Post positions for the Shoemaker Mile will be drawn May 26. Trainer Phil D’Amato is expected to enter three graded stakes winners: The 5-year-old gelding Gold Phoenix (IRE), winner of the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita in March; the 4-year-old Balnikhov (IRE), who won last month’s San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate Fields, and the 6-year-old gelding Hong Kong Harry (IRE), who won last year’s Del Mar Mile (G1) and Seabiscuit Handicap (G2), and was recently second in the Old Forrester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Thus far in 2023, there has been one international automatic qualifier for the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile. The 5-year-old Al Muthana (AUS) won the Jan. 7 L’Omarins King’s Plate (G1) at Kenilworth Racecourse in South Africa.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the Shoemaker Mile winner to start in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a travel allowance of $10,000 for all domestic starters based outside of California to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.