The first thing you should know about the Breeders’ Cup is that it is not one race but a three-day event home to 14 different high-profile races, each worth at least $1 million.

In fact, for the Breeders’ Cup in 2024, which will be held at Del Mar racetrack starting on November 01, there will be $30 million in prize money up for grabs.

By any standard, that is an incredible amount, which is also why the event attracts the absolute best thoroughbreds from the US and around the world.

Each race has its own set of criteria for entries, and rather than take you through all 14 of them, we will look at the top three, starting with the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which is worth a cool $7 million.

Breeders’ Cup Classic Entry Criteria

Run over 2,000 meters on a dirt track and with 14 slots available for contenders, the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the pinnacle of racing.

It follows the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, and is considered by many to be the last premier race of the year in the U.S., contributing significantly to determining the Horse of the Year.

So, if you want to know who will qualify for the 2024 Breeders Cup Betting, there are three ways a thoroughbred can run in the classic.

Win and You’re In

There are eight qualifying races that automatically earn a horse a place in the race.

They are:

  • The February Stakes in February in Japan
  • The Stephen Foster Handicap in June at Churchill Downs
  • The Haskell Invitational in July at Monmouth Park
  • The Whitney Handicap in August at Saratoga Race Course
  • The International Stakes in August at York Racecourse in England
  • The Pacific Classic in September at Del Mar Racetrack in San Diego
  • The Awesome Again Stakes in October at Santa Anita Park
  • The Jockey Club Gold Cup in September at Belmont Park

The premise is simple. Win any of the eight races listed above, and you will automatically get a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Points System

With eight places already determined from the Win and You’re In system, that leaves only six spots, though I should point out that some qualifying winners will not enter the Classic for reasons such as injury or travel concerns.

However, on the basis that all eight are taken up, another four spots are allocated through the points system.

Again, it’s a simple enough premise insofar as certain designated races throughout the season earn points for those horses that finish in the top four places.

First place gets you 10 points, second earns you 6 points, third place gives you 4 points, and fourth place is worth 2 points.

Horses then race and accumulate points, and at the end of the designated period, they are ranked from the highest number of accrued to the lowest.

Those with the highest points are eligible for a spot if they haven’t received one through automatic qualification.

Selection Panel

If, after all of that, places have yet to be filled, the remaining runners are decided by a selection panel. It is their job to look at thoroughbred horses they believe would be a good fit for the race.

They take many factors into account, such as a horse’s overall performance, reputation, class, pedigree, form, and the level of competition the horse has previously faced.

The panel itself is made up of industry specialists, including vets, handicappers, trainers, and officials.

Having looked at all the horses who did not qualify, they choose the ones that they believe will balance the field and ensure that deserving horses that have missed out have a chance to compete.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Qualification

Worth a whopping $5 million, this is the second biggest race at the event, and the standard for entry is on par with the Classic.

Slightly longer at 2,400 meters, this race is run on turf, making it the most prestigious and lucrative race on grass in the series.

In the same way that there are three paths to qualification for the Classic, they also apply for the Turf, although the designated races differ.

For the Breeders’ Cup Turf, there are eleven races for ‘Win and You’re In’ even though there are still only fourteen berths available.

Made up of a mixture of Group 1 and Grade 2 races from around the world, they are:

  • Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina
  • Grande Prêmio Brasil in Brazil
  • Prince of Wales’s Stakes in England
  • Takarazuka Kinen in Japan
  • King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England
  • Del Mar Handicap in California
  • Sword Dancer in New York
  • Irish Champion Stakes in Ireland
  • Kentucky Turf Cup in Kentucky
  • Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France
  • Champion Stakes in England

Not every horse that wins one of the races will ultimately race, and interestingly, in 2023, when Aidan O’Brien’s Auguste Rodin won, there were only eleven runners in total.

Berths not allocated following those eleven races are then determined by the points system and the selection panel.

Breeders’ Cup Distaff

In case you’re wondering, ‘Distaff’ is a category of racing specifically for female horses. It comes from the spindle used to spin thread, which was traditionally a woman’s job.

Worth $2 million in 2024 and run over 1,800 meters on the dirt, this race is only open to fillies and mares, hence the name.

Qualification follows the exact same path as the previous two races mentioned above, and like them, the races selected to determine places differ as they are exclusively for mares.

However, unlike the Classic and the Turf, the Distaff only has four qualifying races, which are:

  • Gran Premio Criadores, run in May at Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo in Argentina
  • Ogden Phipps Stakes, run in June at Belmont Park in New York
  • Clement L. Hirsch Handicap, run in August at Del Mar Racetrack in California
  • Spinster Stakes, run at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky

While this race is specific to female horses, that doesn’t preclude them from entering the Classic or the Turf if they qualify with incredible horses such as Enable (Turf winner 2018) and Zenyatta (Classic winner 2009). Both were able to hold their own as they raced to victory.

Conclusion

The journey to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Turf, and Distaff is a season-long test of stamina and endurance, ensuring that only the best horses will compete in Del Mar in November.

Legendary winners such as American Pharoah, Enable, and High Chaparral have written their names in history books.

With nearly 200 horses ready to race this year, we eagerly await to see who will join them.