The Breeders' Cup Challenge Series reaches its highest peak to date this weekend with a record 18 automatic qualifiers for racing's World Championships Nov. 2-3 at Churchill Downs' in Louisville, Kentucky. Some 63 miles to the East in Lexington, Keeneland kicks off its Fall Stars Weekend with nine Challenge races, while Belmont Park in Elmont, New York offers four and Santa Anita in Arcadia, California counters with two. Toss in a trio at Longchamp in Paris and the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series is undoubtedly a world-wide extravaganza, with all roads leading to Louisville.
There will be live NBC broadcasts of the “Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In – Presented by America's Best Racing” this Saturday, Oct. 6 (4:30-6 p.m. ET) and on Sunday, Oct. 7 (4:30 p.m. ET) from Keeneland.
While Keeneland opens its doors Friday and hosts a pair of Challenge races, it's Saturday and the featured “Win and You're In” Shadwell Turf Mile (GI), which will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile, that takes center stage and anchors a card that features three other “Win and You're In” races; the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (GI, Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile), First Lady (GI, Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf) and Thoroughbred Club of America (GII, Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint).
The $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile has long been an important springboard to the Breeders' Cup Mile and this year figures no different, with a deep and competitive field lining up, with Terry Hamilton's HEART TO HEART looking to improve on his second-place finish in last year's race. The 7-year-old son of 2007 Breeders' Cup Turf winner English Channel won the Gulfstream Park Turf Championship (GI) in February and the course and distance Maker's 46 Mile (GI) in April for trainer Brian Lynch but will need to rebound from a last-of-6 run in Saratoga's Fourstardave (GI) August 11. Heart to Heart is 15-for-37 lifetime, which includes a 10th-place finish in the Mile last year at Del Mar.
Owner-trainer Wesley Ward's BOUND FOR NOWHERE won the local Shakertown (GII) sprinting in April and stretched out to win the Tourist Mile at Kentucky DownsSeptember 1. The 4-year-old son of The Factor is 5-for-8 lifetime and showed he's Grade I caliber when third in the Diamond Jubilee (GI) at Royal Ascot in June. Shadwell Stable's homebred ALMANAAR (GB) will be a big threat on the cutback for trainer Chad Brown, as he was second in the “Win and You're In” Arlington Million (GI), an automatic qualifier for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, while graded stakes winners MR. MISUNDERSTOOD, QURBAAN, SYNCRONY and VOODOO SONG will also attract support. FORGE, NEXT SHARES and
ZULU ALPHA are also expected for the “Win and You're In” Shadwell Turf Mile.
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