Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Returns To NBC Sports This Weekend

The “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In – presented by America’s Best Racing” will be at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto for two live  programs of outstanding turf racing on Saturday, Sept. 18 on NBCSN (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) ― featuring the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1) ― and on Sunday, Sept. 19 on NBCSN (4:30-6 p.m. ET), headlined by the $400,000 Natalma Stakes (G1) and the $400,000 Summer Stakes (G1).

This weekend’s programs mark the seventh and eighth telecasts this year in the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In – presented by America’s Best Racing” on NBC and NBCSN from some of North America’s most iconic racetracks. The series leads to the 38th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California, on Nov. 5-6, which will be shown live on NBC and NBCSN. The complete series TV schedule can be accessed here.

NBC Sports’ coverage will feature commentary and discussion from its International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., led by host Britney Eurton, and analysts Randy Moss and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who won 15 Breeders’ Cup races including five victories in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Reporter Nick Luck and handicapper Matt Bernier will be on-site at Woodbine.

Additional highlights of NBC Sports’ coverage include:

  • The first live race on Saturday’s show is the prestigious Pattison Canadian International
  • Saturday’s show will include a feature on Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse
  • Sunday’s show will feature an interview with celebrity chef Bobby Flay, the owner and breeder of Pizza Bianca, who runs in Sunday’s Natalma Stakes

A field of 10 has been entered in the 25th Ricoh Woodbine Mile, which will give the winner a free berth into the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile presented by PDJF (G1). The race is led by Juddmonte’s 5-year-old gelding Set Piece (GB), trained by Brad Cox. A talented stretch-runner, Set Piece reeled off three straight victories at Churchill Downs earlier this year, taking the Opening Verse Stakes in April, the Douglas Park Stakes in May, and the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) in June. His streak ended with a second-place finish behind Got Stormy in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 14, which was also a “Win and You’re In” for the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Peter Brant’s Raging Bull (FR) had a big chance in the 2019 Woodbine Mile, but was impeded in the stretch. He finished fourth but was moved up to third via disqualification. Trained by Chad Brown, Raging Bull has a Grade 1 win this year, taking the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland in April. He will try to rebound from a lackluster performance in the Fourstardave, where he did not accelerate in the final furlong and wound up sixth as the even-money favorite.

The Canadian-based starters are led by Live Oak Plantation’s March to the Arch and Gary Barber’s Olympic Runner. Both are trained by Mark Casse, who has been inducted into both the Canadian and American Racing Halls of Fame. March to the Arch finished second in last year’s race, losing by 1 length after a powerful drive in the stretch came up short. This year, the 5-year-old won the Niagara Stakes over the Woodbine course on July 25, and was recently third in the King Edward Stakes (G3) on Aug. 15. Olympic Runner won the King Edward for his fifth career score. He finished second at Woodbine in the Connaught Cup (G2) prior to the King Edward.

Casse has also entered John Oxley and My Meadowview Farm’s 6-year-old Ride a Comet, who has eight wins in 17 races, and is unbeaten in all four of his starts at Woodbine. Racing in the U.S. this year, Ride a Comet has one win in five starts, and was third behind Set Piece in the Wise Dan Stakes.

Clipper Logistics’ Space Traveller (GB) will be making his second start in the U.S. this year for trainer Brendan Walsh, after 19 races in the care of Richard Fahey. The 5-year-old Space Traveller rallied well to finish fourth in the Mr. D. Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park on Aug. 14. In 2019, Space Traveller finished eighth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

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On Sunday, the 1-mile Natalma Stakes for 2-year-old fillies will award an automatic starting position into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and the 1-mile Summer Stakes for 2-year-olds will offer a free berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Mark Casse has entered four runners in the Natalma, led by D.J. Stable and Nexus Racing Club’s undefeated Diabolic (IRE). After breaking her maiden in May at Gulfstream Park, Diabolic won her last two starts at Woodbine, taking the 5 ½-furlong My Dear Stakes on July 31 on the all-weather surface, and the 6 ½-furlong Catch a Glimpse Stakes on Aug. 21 on the turf course. Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Canadian-bred Baksheesh broke her maiden by 4-lengths when she won the Muskoka Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 29 on the all-weather surface.

Godolphin’s Wild Beauty GB) has won two races in England this year for trainer Charlie Appleby. After breaking her maiden and winning a novice race, Wild Beauty comes into the Natalma off two-second place finishes, the most recent one being a 1-length defeat as the 5-2 favorite in the Sweet Solera Stakes (G3) on Aug. 7 at Newmarket.

Casse has also entered four starters in the Summer Stakes. His best chance appears to be with Harlequin Ranches’ Canadian-bred First Empire, a son of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner, Classic Empire, out of Silsita by 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Macho Uno. First Empire has two wins in three starts, with a 1 ¾-length victory last time out in the Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine on Aug 21.

Godolphin’s Albahr (GB) has won his last three races in England, and each time as the odds-on favorite. Also trained by Appleby, in his most recent start, Albahr captured the 1-mile EBF Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury by three-quarters of length on Aug. 20. The American runners are led by West Point Thoroughbreds, John Ballantyne, and Titletown Racing Stables’ Dripping Gold.  A son of Lemon Drop Kid, Dripping Gold was an impressive debut winner at Saratoga on Aug. 7, taking a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight by 2 ¼ lengths for trainer Shug McGaughey.

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