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2021 Breeders Cup Classic

2021 Breeders Cup World Championships


By Charles Jay

When you break down the Breeders Cup Classic (scheduled for 8:40 PM ET at Del Mar), it looks very much as if there are four major contenders, along with a couple of others to consider strongly in the exotics, and maybe a couple who don’t belong at all.

Of course, this race is supposed to be difficult to pick; it includes the best of the best, theoretically anyway. And there appears to be a surprising lack of experience in going the distance (which in this case is a mile and a quarter), which may indeed become a factor.

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Breeders Cup Classic — Here the way things line up with the odds at BetOnline….

Listed by post position (note that #2, Express Train, has been scratched)

1 – Tripoli  15-1
2 – Express Train  SCR
3 – Hot Rod Charlie  4-1
4 – Essential Quality  3-1
5 – Knicks Go  5-2
6 – Art Collector  8-1
7 – Stilleto Boy  30-1
8 – Medina Spirit  4-1
9 – Max Player  8-1

Breeders Cup Classic — The favorite: Never at this distance

It seems unusual that the favorite in a race with some world-class horses would not have ever competed at this distance. Yet that is exactly the case with Knicks Go. But he’s the highest money earner in this contest at over $5.55 million lifetime. And he is coming off three very big efforts, including a 4.5-length win in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.

It would appear that Knicks Go is going to be one of the pace-setters, but there are a few viable contenders in this race who can do that. So it will be interesting to see what kind of strategy trainer Brad Cox chooses to take, considering he has another top contender starting(more on that in a second).

Knicks Go is #1 in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top Thoroughbred Poll. Six of the top ten are in this particular race.

Breeders Cup Classic — Essential Quality Seeks to Continue Rolling

Cox also trains Essential Quality, which got bumped at the start of the Kentucky Derby, where he was the favorite, and came fourth. That was the only loss for the Tapit colt, which followed that with a career-high 109 Beyer speed rating in the Belmont and then a 107 at the Travers at Saratoga, which constitutes this horse’s only win at a mile and a quarter.

EQ is not likely to go out there and challenge for the early lead, but is more comfortable in a closing posture. And there is enough pace in this race to help him do that. Wouldn’t it be ironic if one of Cox’s charges chased down the other down the stretch to win?

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Breeders Cup Classic — Will Baffert get vindication with Medina Spirit?

The beleaguered Bob Baffert can get a little satisfaction over the racing establishment if he could bring home a winner with Medina Spirit (4-1 at BetOnline), who tested positive for betamethasone after a wire-to-wire win in the Kentucky Derby and may yet be disqualified.

Meanwhile, the horse is coming off a very big effort in the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita, winning by five lengths and posting a Beyer figure of 107. So he’s in good form. But this is another player who is best when he can get out front.

Breeders Cup Classic — Will we have a Hot Rod to heaven?

Hot Rod Charlie is getting a lot of respect at BetOnline, going off at 4-1 odds, and one of the reasons he deserves to be considered is that he has never been out of the money in a stakes race. It did take him four tries to break maiden, though, and only last September was running at a 57 Beyer speed figure. In the last effort, the Pennsylvania Derby, he posted a 111. That is called an “upward trajectory.”

Breeders Cup Classic — Any longshots to consider?

Well, a longshot in this race may be anybody who is above 4-1, and it’s interesting that between all these contestants, there are only 16 starts at a mile and a quarter, and Max Player has six of them. His last two efforts, including a four-length win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup against a so-so field, have resulted in Beyers of better than 100, but he may need to be close to the lead, and there are better choices in that regard.

Art Collector has won all three races since Bill Mott became his trainer, and he’ll have Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard in a jockey change. Smith has won the Breeders Cup Classic no less than four times. But he’s raced at 1-1/4 miles only once and failed to hit the board.

Maybe you want to consider Tripoli in the exotics, going off at 15-1. This has become a whole new animal after switching from turf to dirt, and his best result happened in his biggest race (the Grade 1 Pacific Classic), at this distance, on this track, and from this post position.

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