The Breeders' Cup allows a maximum field size of 12 or 14 in the championship races. If less than the maximum number are pre-entered, all the horses get in the race, obviously. Since there are often more than 14 horses pre-entered in a race, they have set up a procedure for selecting who will make it in the starting gate. This year pre-entries close at noon ET on Monday, October 22, 2012.
First, any horse who has won a Breeders' Cup Challenge race for that particular division is guaranteed to get in. Then come the horses who have accumulated the highest number of points in graded stakes, up to a total of seven horses between the Challenge races and points (six in the case of a 12 horse maximum field). Win, place and show horses in Grade 1 stakes earn 10, 6 and 4 points, respectively. The top three finishers in Grade 2 stakes earn 6, 4 and 2 points respectively, and in Grade 3 races the points earned are 4, 2 and 1, respectively. Note that horses have to earn a minimum of 6 points in graded stakes for them to count except in the juvenile races. In the case of a tie for the 7th (or 6th) spot in a field, the Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel will decide which gets that spot. Points can be earned in graded stakes in both the United States and Canada. Canadian grades have been internationally recognized by the International Cataloguing Standards Committee since 1999, but 2011 was the first year that Breeders' Cup used them for points scoring purposes.
The remaining horses pre-entered will be ranked in order of preference by the Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel. The Panel can set their own criteria for this order to make sure the best horses get in the race.
Horses can be pre-entered in up to two races and they must designate a first and second preference at that time. Once a horse has been ranked high enough to make the field in its first choice, its ranking in the second choice will only be up to the Panel regardless of the number of points it has accumulated. If the horse does not make the field in its first choice, then its points will be used for the ranking in its second choice.
The Panel will release a list of horses pre-entered for each race in order of preference once pre-entries have closed and been processed. At that point, only that list matters and points no longer matter.
Entries for all 15 Breeders' Cup Championship races will close on Monday October 29 at 10am PT. At the time of entry, a maximum of 14 horses (or 12 in the case of those races with a 12 horse maximum field) will be accepted for entry in each race based on the order of preference in the rankings established at pre-entry. A horse will be permitted to enter two Breeders' Cup Championship races if the horse is eligible for both races, the races will be contested on different days, the pre-entry and entry fees are paid for both races, and neither race is oversubscribed. A horse may not double-enter Breeders' Cup Championship races if this will cause another horse to be excluded from competing. Pre-entry and entry fees will not be refunded for the race in which the owner of the double-entered horse elects not to compete.
A maximum of two also-eligible horses will be allowed at the time of entry who can move into the field if there is a scratch, according to this press release. The also-eligible horses will be designated in accordance with the Breeders’ Cup Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel’s order of preference for each Championship race that is oversubscribed at the time of pre-entry. Scratch time for all Championships races to be contested on both Championship Friday and Championship Saturday will be 8:00am PT, on Friday, Nov. 2.
Post positions for all 15 races are drawn at random, in the traditional double-blind system, starting at noon PT on Monday, October 29.