The biggest weekend in sports, at least for fans of championship horse racing, is here with the 38th running of the Breeders’ Cup taking place November 5-6 at Del Mar Racetrack. The marquee event of the two-day, 14-race extravaganza is the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which has a field of nine horses racing for a prize pool of $6 million. Though the field is small the talent level is sky high with the Classic likely one of the best in the race’s history.
Even with past Triple Crown race winners in the field, the early betting favorite is Knicks Go with 5/2 odds. At 5-years-old he’s been around the track and was a late-bloomer with seven of his nine career victories coming in the past 20 months.
The field is one of the strongest in recent Classic history with Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality the second favorite and Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit listed fourth on the odds board. The field of horses will run 1 1/4 miles on the dirt at Del Mar.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be run on Saturday, November 6, 2021 with post time set for 8:40 p.m. ET at Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar, Calif. You can catch the Breeders’ Cup Classic live on NBC.
Odds to win 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Knicks Go +240
Essential Quality +300
Hot Rod Charlie +600
Medina Spirit +650
Max Player +850
Art Collector +1000
Express Train +4000
Stilleto Boy +5000
(Odds provided by BookMaker.eu as of November 4, 2021)
If experience counts then there’s a good reason why Knicks Go is favored. He has 23 races on his resume with wins in his last three, all Graded Stakes races, and nine firsts overall. Knicks Go had an impressive run at the G3 Cornhusker Handicap toppling the field by more than 10 lengths. Apparently he was pissed after a pair of fourth-place showings when running as the favorite.
He followed that with a 4 1/2 length triumph at the G1 Whitney Stakes and most recently captured the G3 Lukas Classic Stakes by four lengths. He’s the fastest horse in the race and if he plays his game a win is certainly out there. However, he’s never run at this distance before, which could be a concern.
The favorite doesn’t always win and there are some strong opponents in the field. Essential Quality is the top-ranked 3-year-old following wins in the Belmont and Travers Stakes. The colt has won eight of his nine starts falling short in the Kentucky Derby when Medina Spirit and Hot Rod Charlie both finished ahead of him. A wide turn set him back in that race or the outcome could have been different.
Hot Rod Charlie might be the most underappreciated horse in the race. He finished among the top three in each of his last eight starts, though his win at the Haskell Stakes in July was taken away for causing interference and officially became a seventh-place finish. He burst onto the racing scene last year at the BC Championship with a runner-up showing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a 94/1 longshot.
Though Bob Baffert has taken a hit with recent issues in the racing world, he can still train horses and Del Mar is one of his venues. That’s why you can’t count out Medina Spirit in this race. He’s won two straight and rates well when getting to the front early. The 3-year-old colt has never finished lower than third in nine career races and is coming off a dominant five-length win in the G1 Awesome Again Stakes in October.
With more than half the field listed with odds greater than 8/1 there has to be a potential upset winner in the group. Max Player stands out with victories at this distance in the G2 Suburban Stakes and G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in his most recent starts. He’s also shown a faster pace in his starts and won’t be swayed by the field. “He always has more but sometimes doesn’t give it,” assistant trainer Toby Sheets said of Max Player. While he’s in the middle-of-pack on the odds board, Max Player is capable of climbing up the leaderboard.
Tripoli pulled off the upset win in the G1 Pacific Classic a few months ago at Del Mar in just his second Grades Stakes race. He gained entry into the Classic with the “Win and You’re In” triumph. He also gets a jockey upgrade with Irad Ortiz taking over the reins, which should help. But Tripoli is going to have to run better than he has to pull off the upset.
Breeders’ Cup Classic Picks
It’s hard to see any horse below the top-4 winning the race. The only issue is getting the right order. Knicks Go has the speed but has never run this distance, and that could be a problem. I like Hot Rod Charlie and the smaller field will help in his late charge.
1) Hot Rod Charlie
2) Essential Quality
3) Max Player