Biggest American horse races to watch after the Triple Crown series

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June 20th, 2022

Even the most casual horse racing fan knows about the iconic Kentucky Derby (G1), along with the Preakness S. (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) that comprise the Triple Crown series. But there are a number of important races in the United States outside those three American Classics.

Now that Mo Donegal has seized the final leg of the Triple Crown, you may be wondering what’s left to look forward to in Thoroughbred racing for the rest of 2022. Below we highlight the biggest U.S. races to circle on your calendar for the second half of the year, from the Haskell S. (G1) to the illustrious Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

For a full list of major horse races throughout the year, click here.

Stephen Foster Handicap (G2)

When: July 2, 2022
Where: Churchill Downs
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Purse: $750,000

Inaugurated in 1982, the Stephen Foster H. features some of the top three-year-old Thoroughbreds and older in a nine-furlong dirt race at historic Churchill Downs.

Named after the composer of “My Old Kentucky Home”, the Stephen Foster H. has been part of the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series that grants the winner an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) since 2015.

Five horses have won both the Stephen Foster and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year, and four have triumphed in the race along their route to claiming Horse of the Year honors: Black Tie Affair (1991), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008), and Gun Runner (2017).

Robby Albarado and Pat Day are tied with the most victories by a jockey (three), while Vodika Collins and Recoup the Cash are the only horses to win the Stephen Foster twice.

Haskell Stakes (G1)

When: July 23, 2022
Where: Monmouth Park
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Purse: $1,000,000

Open to three-year-olds, the Haskell S. began in 1968 and serves as a prep for the Travers S.

Formerly called the Haskell Invitational, the 1 1/8-mile dirt race is another “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge event that has seen a number of legendary horses cross the wire first, from Holy Bull in 1994 to Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Big Brown (2008), Rachel Alexandra (2009), American Pharoah (2015), and Authentic (2020).

Bob Baffert has saddled the Haskell winner a record nine times (2001, 2002, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2020), while jockeys Craig Perret, Martin Garcia, and Mike Smith are tied with three wins apiece.

Arlington Million (G1)

When: Aug. 13, 2022
Where: Churchill Downs
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Purse: $1,000,000

The Grade 1 turf race for three-year-olds and up was launched in 1981 at the now-defunct Arlington Park in Illinois. The first Thoroughbred race to offer a million-dollar purse, the Arlington Million was run at 1 1/4 miles before it moved to Churchill Downs, where the race will cover 1 1/8 miles on the track's new turf course in 2022.

Trainer Chad Brown has won the Arlington Million a record four times, with three of those victories coming consecutively from 2017 to 2019.

Two-time Horse of the Year John Henry is the only two-time winner of the Arlington Million. His first win came in the inaugural event, in which Hall of Fame rider Bill Shoemaker became the first jockey to win a $1 million Thoroughbred race.

Travers Stakes (G1)

When: Aug. 27, 2022
Where: Saratoga Race Course
Distance: 1 1/4 miles
Purse: $1,250,000

Nicknamed the “Mid-Summer Derby,” the Travers S. is the oldest stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds in the U.S.

First run in 1864, the Travers was named after William R. Travers, former president of Saratoga Racing Association. Winners receive a trophy designed by Tiffany & Co., known as the Man o’ War Cup, named after Horse of the Year Man o’ War, who won the Travers in 1920.

In 1941, Triple Crown winner Whirlaway became the only horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and the Travers, a feat sometimes referred to as the “superfecta,” or the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing — although, today the Grand Slam more commonly references the three Triple Crown races, plus the Breeders’ Cup Classic, all four of which American Pharoah won in 2015.

Jockey Javier Castellano holds the record for most Travers S. victories, with six (2006, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018), while Bert Mulholland owns the most wins by a trainer (five).

Preakness and Belmont champion Damascus won the Travers by a record 22 lengths when he crossed the finish line first in 1967, the same year he won Horse of the Year.

Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1)

When: November 5, 2022
Where: Rotating venues (Keeneland in 2022)
Distance: 1 1/4 miles
Purse: $6 million

The marquee event of the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships, the Breeders’ Cup Classic is a premier race for three-year-olds and older run at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

Once the richest race in the world, the Breeders’ Cup Classic purse has recently been surpassed by the Everest, Dubai World Cup, Saudi Cup, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but the Classic is no less important on the racing calendar.

The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic typically goes on to win U.S. Horse of the Year, including the likes of Ghostzapper (2004), Curlin (2007), Zenyatta (2009), and most recent champion Knicks Go (2021).

Tiznow is the only horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice (2000, 2001). American Pharoah (2015) and Volponi (2002) share the record for largest winning margin (6 1/2 lengths).

Jerry Bailey and Chris McCarron are tied for most wins by a jockey with five, while Baffert has the record for victories by a trainer (four).

Honorable mention: more top U.S. races during the second half of the year

Pacific Classic Stakes (G1): Sept. 3, 2022, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club & Racetrack; The $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, run at 1 1/4 miles, is relatively new compared to other races on this list. Inaugurated in 1991, the “Win and You’re In” event for three-year-olds and up is the richest and most prestigious race held at Del Mar.

Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1): Sept. 3, 2022, Saratoga Race Course; Established in 1919, the 1 1/4-mile dirt race for three-year-olds and up was the main event of Belmont Park's fall meet, before it moved to Saratoga in 2021. The purse for the "Win and You're In" event is $1 million.

Woodbine Mile (G1): Sept. 17, 2022, Woodbine Racetrack; The Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-olds and up is run annually in mid-September on Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Turf Course in Toronto, Canada. The $1,000,000 race is a "Win and You're In" event that automatically qualifies the winning racehorse for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).

Clark S. (G1): Nov. 25, 2022, Churchill Downs; Held each year in late November, the Clark S. is one of the oldest races in the U.S., first run in 1875, when Churchill Downs opened. For three-year-olds and up, the Clark S. was originally known as the Clark Handicap and is run at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.