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The Guide to the Breeders' Cup

The Breeders' Cup is an annual event taking place in North America that serves as the de facto world championships of thoroughbred racing.

The location of the meeting changes year to year and it was expanded to a two-day event to accommodate a wider variety of races – the majority of which boast Grade 1 status (the American equivalent to a Group 1 Black Type event). It draws contenders from all four corners of the globe in search of multimillion dollar payoffs and horse racing immortality.

The Breeders' Cup Classic is the feature race and is run as the final contest on the second day of the Breeders' Cup. It boasts the biggest payday of any contest with a full $5,000,000 up for grabs. The lowest purse is found in the Grade 3 Breeders' Cup Marathon where the top finishers split a purse of $500,000. 

Betting on the Breeders' Cup is a different experience than wagering on the typical  North American day at the races and novice punters get the advantage of being able to wager on higher-end horses that tend to run more consistently than the claiming level racing on offer at most local racetracks.

European contenders and shippers from Asia and Australia become especially important in turf events. Every Breeders' Cup location must boast a turf course and either a dirt or synthetic surface. Pay particular attention to whether your selections have run their best types of races on dirt or synthetic tracks as some horses tend to prefer one over the other and the surfaces vary greatly from track to track.

Since the majority of Europeans think of thoroughbred racing as an activity that takes place on grass, it's important to remember that dirt contests tend to unfold much differently than the typical turf race.

The opening phase of a dirt race is of more importance than the opening panels of a grassy contest and on some American tracks your horse can be virtually out of the running if he does not break (come out of the starting gate) well.

Betting volume on the final day of the Breeders' Cup is the biggest volume day of the year in American thoroughbred racing and the outside exotic pools can pay off life-changing amounts of money if a few upsets come in during the final few races.

There is a legendary Pick 6 bet available on the Breeders' Cup where punters must select six winners from six races in a row. In 1999 and 2003 a single winner cashed a Pick 6 ticket at the Breeders' Cup and they took home purses of $3,100,000 and $2,700,000, respectively.

The races run annually at the Breeders' Cup happen over a Friday and a Saturday with the Friday card being considered the “lady's day out” with the Breeders' Cup Marathon being the only race on the card featuring males.

Traditionally run as the opening race of the two-day event, the Breeders' Cup Marathon is a quirky distance of 1m6f in a country where staying races are not particularly widespread. The race gained further notoriety on live television at the 2010 Breeders' Cup when jockey Calvin Borel attacked Javier Castellano, sparking a winners' circle punch-up.

The Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is a recent addition to the Breeders' Cup and was first run in 2008. It offers up a purse of $1,000,000 for two-year-old fillies going 1m on the grass.

The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint is a 7f dash for females of all ages that pays $1,000,000 to be split amongst the top finishers. Another more recent addition to the Breeders' Cup card, it tends to attract a who's-who of American short distance females.You will find contenders aged three-years-old and up.

The $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies is a contest that decides the top two-year-old female running in North America, though it is open to horses from everywhere it is run on dirt or synthetic. It was one of the original Breeders' Cup races and is run over an 8.5f distance. The race carries Grade 1 status.

The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf is for older fillies and mares and was first run in 1999. It boasts Grade 1 status and it has been a notable scalp for European invaders on several occasions- Ouija Board notably won the race in 2004 and 2006 for Lord Derby. It pays a $2,000,000 dividend amongst the top finishers.

The Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic is considered to be the feature contest on the opening day and it boasts a $2,000,000 purse. Contested on dirt or synthetic over a 9f distance, it has been won by a number of prominent American females including Zenyatta and Personal Ensign.

On the Saturday of the Breeders' Cup, the racing opens with the $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf which goes 8f. Restricted to two-year-olds, it was first run in 2007 and achieved graded status in 2009 when it was certified as a Grade 2.

The $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Sprint is a Grade 1 contest run over dirt or synthetic that effectively decides the best short-distance runner on the planet. Run over 6f, American jockey Corey Nakatani famously won it three years on the bounce with Lit De Justice, Elmhurst and Reraise.

The $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint is another recent addition that carries Grade 2 status. Run over a grassy 5f in most races, the length of the race can vary based on the specific course where the race is being run. In 2008, it was contested over 6.5f using the Hillside Turf Course at Santa Anita.

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile is considered the top target for two-year-old horses running in North America. A victory here immediately elevates a contender to the status of Kentucky Derby favourite despite this race only producing a Derby winner in 2006 with Street Sense. There is a $2,000,000 purse up for grabs and the graded status of the race helps a contenders Derby prospects.

The $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Mile is a turf contest that is run over 8f and has been dominated by the European super-mare Goldikova who has captured the race three times in a row. The purse was raised from $1,500,000 back in 2005.

The lower-profile $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile is another 8f contest for three-year-olds and up. It was added to the card in 2007 and was awarded Grade 1 status in 2009. It is considered to be a popular destination for older American colts and geldings who never excelled at the classic distance.

The Breeders' Cup Turf is the second-largest race at the meet and has been a very popular race for European shippers and their jockeys. Its purse was raised to a whopping $3,000,000 in 2007 and it is very widely considered one of the most dynamic contests of the two-day event and it generally boasts the most diverse field.

The $5,000,000 Breeders' Cup Classic is considered to be a kingmaker (or queenmaker in one case) and a surefire way to achieve horse racing immortality. The race is run over a 10f distance and is contested on dirt or synthetic.

There are a number of prominent Grade 1 races that automatically qualify a horse to run in this race and they include the Whitney Handicap, the Goodwood Stakes and the Pacific Classic.

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