England's Derby, Oaks opened to American horses

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Horses are in training at Epsom Downs, Photo by Hugh Craddock/Wikimedia Commons
Horses are in training at Epsom Downs, Photo by Hugh Craddock/Wikimedia Commons

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The British Jockey Club and Ascot Racecourse have agreed to set aside spots in the Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks for designated winners of races at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby weekend.

The organizations announced jointly Tuesday the winner of the Grade II American Turf on Derby Day in Louisville will be offered an entry and travel stipend to compete in the original Derby.


The winner of the Grade II Edgewood on Kentucky Oaks Day will be accorded the same benefits for the Epsom Oaks.

The British Derby and Oaks are sponsored by bookmaker Betfred.

The linkage is groundbreaking in guaranteeing international competition in two of the British Classics. It also, however, brings England more firmly into the global competition for top horses -- and for wagering dollars that follow international runners.

The Churchill Downs for years has offered guaranteed spots in the Kentucky Derby to the winners of designated races in Europe and Japan and the Japan Racing Association offers huge bonuses to attract international runners to its major races.

Most other international race meetings have similar qualifiers and/or travel incentives for top horses.


Matt Woolston, international racing director at the Jockey Club, said England is ready to jump on the bandwagon.

"We look forward to welcoming American runners to the Betfred Oaks and Betfred Derby," Woolston said. "Runners who perform well in the Edgewood Stakes and the American Turf will come to Epsom Downs with a fighting chance and it will be fascinating to see how they fare.

"These historic races already have an international reputation and we want to welcome more and more international runners in the years to come."

The Oaks and Derby arrangement is part of a larger scheme that offers winners of the Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic and Grade II Twin Spires Turf Sprint entries into races during Royal Ascot.

Conversely, the winners of two Royal Ascot races will be accorded berths in the Grade I Arlington Million and Grade I Beverly D. at Colonial Downs, owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

The Million and Beverly D., when run at their original location in suburban Chicago, always were strong draws for European horses. European interest has evaporated since CDI closed Arlington International Racecourse, which was sold to the Chicago Bears and demolished.

Arlington decades ago entered into a short-lived agreement with France Galop that linked its Grade I races with events run at Longchamp in Paris during the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend.


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