04/15/2008 11:00PM

Three Ascot races join Breeders' Cup promotion


Breeders' Cup Ltd. has added three late-September group races at Ascot Racecourse in England to its program of guaranteed berths in the season-ending championship races, the organization announced on Wednesday.

The three races, all scheduled for Sept. 27 on the turf during Ascot's fall meet, are the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, which will qualify the winner for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile; the Group 1 Fillies Mile for 2-year-old fillies, which will qualify for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; and the Group 2 Royal Lodge for 2-year-old colts and geldings, for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

With the three additions, 53 races in four countries have now been designated by the Breeders' Cup for automatic berths in one of its 14 championship races. The list includes 42 stakes races in the United States, seven in Canada, three in England, and one in Hong Kong.

Greg Avioli, president of Breeders' Cup, said that Breeders' Cup does not expect to add any other foreign races to the automatic-berth schedule for this year, though the organization is likely to identify three to five additional domestic stakes races "within the next 30 days" for the program. Several of those races will provide automatic berths to the new Breeders' Cup Marathon, a $500,000, 1 1/2-mile race that will be run for the first time this year.

This year's Breeders' Cup is scheduled for Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita Park in Southern California.

Next year, Breeders' Cup will likely expand the program to other foreign countries, Avioli said, and will also attempt to designate other races as a way to provide a consistent number of berths for each race.

"We're still working on that," Avioli said. "We're trying to balance it out among all the divisions."

Breeders' Cup started the program to allow for automatic berths in 2007, initially designating 24 races. In its first year, 14 horses who earned automatic berths started in one of the Breeders' Cup races held at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Four of those horses won.