What to know about the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships


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.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.