What to know about the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships

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The horse racing world closes out an unusual year with the 37th edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course, 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.

Related: How to watch every single Breeders’ Cup race

When and where is the 2020 Breeders’ Cup?

The Breeders’ Cup runs from November 6-7. Friday’s coverage runs from 2 to 6 p.m. ET, and Saturday’s coverage runs from 12 to 5:30 p.m. Post time for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is set for 5:13 p.m.

The Breeders’ Cup changes tracks every year, with Keeneland hosting for the second time in Lexington, Ky., just down the road from where many of the horses competing in the event were bred.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Breeders’ Cup will run without fans in the stands. Keeneland will also host again in 2022.

How to watch Breeders’ Cup: 

NBC Sports is home to the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app before, during and after. Coverage kicks off with Future Stars Friday on November 6, from 2-6 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. NBC Sports will resume coverage the following day on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app beginning at 12 p.m., with the broadcast jumping to NBC from 2:30-5:30 p.m.

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.

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).

The last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Keeneland, 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.

Related: Breeders’ Cup Classic odds, post positions

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

A field of 10 is set for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Bob Baffert’s Improbable opens as the 5-2 morning line favorite to lead the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic odds at Keeneland on Saturday, Nov. 7. He will start from the No. 8 spot. Post time for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is set for approximately 5:13 p.m. ET.

Improbable took fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile but is on a three-race winning streak with firsts in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Whitney and Awesome Again (all G1). Baffert’s three charges break from the outermost stalls, with 2020 Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner up Authentic (9-5) starting from the No. 9 and the infamous Maximum Security (7-2) taking the far outside at No. 10.

Maximum Security first made waves after his controversial disqualification from the 2019 Kentucky Derby. He went on to win the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup in February of 2020, just days before his then-trainer Jason Servis was indicted by the FBI for participating in a systematic doping ring that swept up multiple horses, including Maximum Security. After a trainer change and several months off, he collected two graded wins in three starts with Baffert.

The Baffert contingent’s biggest competition will be Saratoga sweetheart Tiz the Law (3-1). The 2020 Belmont and Travers winner takes the No. 2 stall in the Classic. After finishing second in the Kentucky Derby behind Authentic, Tiz the Law sat out the Preakness so he could rest up for the Breeders’ Cup. He is owned by New York-based racing syndicate Sackatoga Stables and trained by Barclay Tagg—the same connections behind 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.

Watch NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup starting with Future Stars Friday on Nov. 6 from 2-6 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and continuing with Championship Saturday on Nov. 7 from 12-5:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN until 2:30, NBC from 2:30-5:30).