Most casual sports fans are aware of horse racing's Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Championships. However, a longtime challenge for the game has been how to provide fans with a cohesive format that bridges the sport's two showcase events. Enter the Breeders' Cup Challenge.

The Breeders' Cup Challenge, now in its sixth season, is comprised of a series of the sport's top races from around the world held throughout the summer and fall. The winners of these races earn automatic entry into the starting gate, all expenses paid, for the Breeders' Cup World Championships on Nov. 2-3 at Santa Anita Park.

Races in all of the various Breeders' Cup divisions (i.e. Sprint, Turf, Mile, Classic, etc.) are represented in the Breeders' Cup Challenge. This year there will be 73 automatic qualifying races in the Breeders' Cup Challenge, 52 of which are Grade or Group 1 races. These races will take place in virtually all of the world's major racing countries.

It is hoped that by making certain designated races all-expenses paid “automatic qualifiers” for the World Championships, top horses will be more likely to compete and that will help drum up fan interest.

To illustrate the Breeders' Cup World Championships growing international reach, Challenge races will be held at some of the world's greatest racetracks in countries including the United States, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Ireland, Germany, France, England, Australia and Argentina.

The Breeders' Cup Challenge has grown steadily in its reach and influence during its six-year run. Craig Fravel, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd., believes the continued upgrade of the series will only add to fan interest in the Breeders' Cup.

“Expanding the global reach and upgrading the quality of races in the Breeders' Cup Challenge series are critical factors in generating awareness for the Breeders' Cup in the months leading to our Championships,” Fravel said.

The headliner of the World Championships is always the Breeders' Cup Classic, which offers the biggest purse and is open to all comers. There will be six automatic berths to the Classic up for grabs this summer and fall. It begins with the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16 and continues with the Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park on July 7. Following that are the Whitney Handicap from Saratoga on Aug. 14, the TVG Pacific Classic from Del Mar on Aug. 26 and the Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont Park and the Goodwood Handicap from Santa Anita, which are both on Sept. 29.

In all, 13 new races were added to the Breeders' Cup Challenge in 2012. Domestic races added to the series include the Grade 1 Personal Ensign from Saratoga, the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap from Belmont Park, the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes from Belmont, the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes from Belmont and the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes from Keeneland.

The 29th Breeders' Cup World Championships from Santa Anita will be televised on NBC Sports Network and NBC on Nov. 2-3.

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