What to know about the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships

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The Thoroughbred industry will close out a dramatic and unprecedented year of horse racing with the 36th iteration of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, only on NBC, NBCSN, and NBCSports.com.

What is the Breeders’ Cup World Championships? The Breeders’ Cup is horse racing’s last hurrah of the year. Horses from around the globe will compete in 14 races over two days, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic closing out the weekend.

The Breeders’ Cup originated in 1984 as a year-end championship for North American Thoroughbred horses and their breeders. The brainchild of the late John Gaines, the former owner of Gainesway Farm, the Breeders’ Cup was built by Thoroughbred breeders, for Thoroughbred breeders.

In 2007, the Breeders’ Cup was expanded from one day to two. Now, the first day of the weekend is called Future Stars Friday, with many of racing’s most promising colts and fillies running on both the dirt and the turf. Championship Saturday will give out more than $22 million in purse money over nine races, including the $6 million Classic.

How to watch every single Breeders’ Cup race

When and where is the 2019 Breeders’ Cup? The 2019 Breeders’ Cup begins Friday, November 1 and concludes on November 2 with a packed card that features the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Racing at Santa Anita beings at 1:45 p.m. ET on Nov. 1 and at 1:07 p.m. ET on Nov. 2, but not every race over the weekend is a Breeders’ Cup Championships race. See all post times here.

The Breeders’ Cup changes tracks every year, with California’s Santa Anita hosting in 2019 for a record-10th time. Keeneland will host in 2020, followed by Del Mar in 2021.

How can I watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup? NBC Sports is home to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after. Coverage kicks off with Future Stars Friday on November 1, from 4-8 p.m. on NBCSN. NBC Sports will resume coverage the following day on NBCSN beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET, with the Classic hour jumping to NBC from 8-9 p.m. ET.

How are horses picked for the Breeders’ Cup? Horses must be nominated to race in any Breeders’ Cup event. Stallions at stud who are nominated then pass that nomination down to their foals, meaning any offspring of a nominated stallion is eligible to run in a Breeders’ Cup race. Each year, the stallion’s nomination costs as much as his advertised breeding fee and will cover up to the first 50 foals the stallion produces that year before the fee goes up. Foals can also be nominated individually at $400 each, and stallions standing abroad are also eligible. These funds contribute to the Breeders’ Cup purses and go back into the host track.

However, just because a horse is nominated doesn’t mean they’ll run in the Breeders’ Cup.

The “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is a series of Breeders’ Cup qualifying races that gives the winner an automatic entry into the relevant Breeders’ Cup race (with entry fees paid).

Horses who didn’t get in through a Challenge Series race accumulate points throughout the season by finishing graded races in the money, and the horses with the most points at the end of the season will fill the remaining spots.

See all results and replays from NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series

What is the Breeders’ Cup Classic? The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is the marquee event of the weekend. At 1 1/4 miles long, the Classic has a field of up to 14 horses that must be at least 3 years old. Breeders’ Cup Classic winners have a history of going on to win Horse of the Year, including Gun Runner (2017), Curlin (2007) and Cigar (1995).

In 2015, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah capped off his historic year by dominating Breeders’ Cup Classic with a 6 1/2-length win, becoming the first horse ever to claim the “Grand Slam” of horse racing: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. American Pharoah was then retired and went on to win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

How to watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Who are the horses to watch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

  • Bob Baffert’s McKinzie, named for Baffert’s late friend Brad McKinzie, gave the trainer his first G1 Whitney Stakes win ever. Before an injury sidelined McKinzie for the entire 2018 Triple Crown, he was considered to be Baffert’s best shot at the Derby over stablemate Justify (who went on to become the 13th horse ever to win the Triple Crown). McKinzie won the Pennsylvania Derby in his first start back from injury, then finished 12th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. After a big 2019 where he finished either first or second in all six of his races, McKinzie’s other win this year was in the G2 Alysheba. However, McKinzie will be without his longtime jockey Mike Smith, opting for Joel Rosario instead.
  • Code of Honor finished third in the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being elevated to second after Maximum Security was disqualified. His connections decided he would sit out the rest of the Triple Crown, and he’s since gone unbeaten in three starts (G3 Dwyer, G1 Travers Stakes and G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup). The Shug McGaughey-trained colt has over $2 million in career earnings.
  • With over $2 million in lifetime earnings, powerhouse Elate is one of the top active mares in the country. A great granddaughter of 1992 Classic winner A. P. Indy, Elate has finished in the money in every start since July of 2018. Her campaign for the 2019 Classic began with her win in the G2 Fleur de Lis, and she most recently finished second in the G1 Spinster behind 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff contender Blue Prize.
  • Bred by Northern Farm in Hokkaido, Japan, Yoshida finished just outside the money in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. The China Horse Club and WinStar-owned stallion hasn’t won a race this year, but did see two top-3 finishes in Grade 1 races (second in the Whitney behind McKinzie and third in the Woodward).
  • 2019 Preakness winner War of Will may be best known for being the horse interfered with by Maximum Security during the 2019 Kentucky Derby. He hasn’t won a race since the Preakness back in May, finishing in the money only once out of three starts (third in the Pennsylvania Derby).
  • Mongolian Groom was catapulted into the Classic conversation after the 25-1 longshot upset the favorite McKinzie in the Awesome Again Stakes. His road to the Classic has been unconventional: The Calumet-bred gelding wasn’t initially nominated, so his connections paid a steep $200,000 fee (compared to his lifetime earnings of $579,141) for him to become eligible for Breeders’ Cup races since his nomination was so late.

2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic post positions and early odds

Who won the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic? Accelerate stormed his way to the wire at Churchill Downs to give trainer John Saddler his first-ever Breeders’ Cup win in 45 starts. The 5-year-old Hronis Racing stallion lost out on Horse of the Year to Justify, finished third in the Pegasus World Cup the following January and then retired to stud at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.

How is Santa Anita celebrating the 10th anniversary of Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic win? “Queen Zenyatta” will be highlighted throughout the weekend. In 2009, she became the first mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The win reached beyond horse racing, with Queen Z coming in second to Lindsay Vonn for AP’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2010.

After a stunning 19-1-0 record in 20 career starts, Zenyatta was retired in 2010 and currently lives at Lane’s End Farm. Though she hasn’t had any racing success as a breeder, her first foal, Cozmic One, competed in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and is an ambassador for racehorses starting for new careers.