2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Preview

Updated: November 6th at 7:30 PM EST

Coming up this Saturday, the 38th running of the Breeder’s Cup Classic with a purse of $6 Million Dollars. This is the most talented field we have seen in North America thus far in 2021.

Post time is 5:40 PM PST (8:40 PM EST). The race will be televised on NBC with coverage beginning at 2:30 PM PST(6:30 PM EST) on NBC Sports Network.

Below are the official entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds.

2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Starting Field

1) Tripoli (15/1) – The TVG Pacific Classic winner. He finished fourth in the Awesome Again Stakes in his next start. He’s got a great trainer/jockey combination in John Sadler and Irad Ortiz Jr who have both won the Breeders Cup Classic. His inside post in this talented field will mean that he will have to get out of the gate well.

Career: 15 Starts 4-3-3-3 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>4th
Sire: Kitten’s Joy
Trainer: John Salder (2018 Breeders Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr (2019 Breeders Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:02.37 – 2021 TVG Pacific Classic
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 108 – 2021 TVG Pacific Classic

2) Express Train (SCRATCHED 20/1) – The San Diego Handicap winner (shown below). The John Sherriffs-trainee followed up that win with a sixth place finish in the TVG Pacific Classic and a third place finish in the Awesome Again Stakes.

Career: 14 Starts 4-4-3-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>3rd
Sire: Union Rags 
Trainer: John Sheriffs (2009 Breeders Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:02.91 (estimated) – 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 104 – 2021 San Pasqual Stakes

3) Hot Rod Charlie (4/1) – The Pennsylvania Derby winner. He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby but disappointed in Haskell Stakes with a seventh place finish.

Career: 11 Starts 3-2-3-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd->7th->1st
Sire: Oxbow
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Flavian Prat
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.18 (estimated) – 2021 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 110 – 2021 Pennsylvania Derby

4) Essential Quality (3/1) – The Brad Cox-trained colt has won 8 of his 9 career starts. His only loss came in the Kentucky Derby with a fourth place finish where he had a bad trip.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.19 (estimated) – 2021 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 111 – 2021 Belmont Stakes

5) Knicks Go (5/2) – The 2021 Pegasus World Cup winner. He is race favorite and most experienced colt in this field with 23 career starts. The only question mark is how he will stretch out to 10 furlongs since he has never raced beyond 9 furlongs. He will get tested going an extra furlong with this talented field. My guess is that he won’t be race favorite come post-time.

Career: 23 Starts 9-3-1-4 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Paynter (Finished 7th in the 2013 Breeders Cup Classic)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2018 Breeders Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 111 – 2021 Cornhusker Handicap

6) Art Collector (8/1) – The 2021 Woodward Stakes winner. He is coming off wins in his last three starts. However, he has never raced in California or at the 10 furlong distance. The Bill Mott-trained colt will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Smith and trainer Bill Mott will be looking to recapture past glory together as they teamed up to win the 2011 Breeders Cup Classic with Drosselmeyer.

Career: 15 Starts 8-1-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st–>1st
Sire: Bernardini (Finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders Cup Classic)
Trainer: William Mott (1995 & 2011 Breeders Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 108 – 2021 Woodward Stakes

7) Stilleto Boy (30/1) – A well-deserved 30/1 longshot that will likely be 50/1 or greater odds come post-time. The Ed Moger trained colt has never broke a 100 Brisnet Speed Figure or raced 10 furlongs before. His best finish in a Grade 1 race came in his last start, the Awesome Again Stakes, where he finished 2nd. His biggest win to date was this year’s Iowa Derby (shown below) at Prairie Meadows.

Career: 10 Starts 2-3-3-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Shackleford
Trainer: Ed Moger Jr
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2021 Awesome Again Stakes

8) Medina Spirit (4/1) – The 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. After his Derby win and 3rd place finish in the Preakness Stakes, he followed up with two consecutive wins in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar and the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. In the Awesome Again, he won by five lengths in a field that included Stilleto Boy, Express Train and Tripoli.

Career: 9 Starts 5-3-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 3rd-->1st–>1st
Sire: Protonico
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015, 2016 Breeders Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2020 Breeders Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.02 – 2021 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 105 – 2021 Awesome Again Stakes

9) Max Player (8/1) – The Steve Asmussen-trained colt has blossomed as a four-year old, winning his last two starts in the Suburban Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Both races were at the 10 furlong distance and he wasn’t the race favorite in either race.

Career: 11 Starts 4-1-2-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 6th-->1st–>1st
Sire: Honor Code (Finished 3rd in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007, 2017 Breeders Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.73 (estimated) – 2020 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 107 – 2021 Suburban Stakes

Who’s my Classic Favorite?

I think this race comes down to three contenders: Essential QualityKnicks Go and Medina Spirit. I am making Essential Quality my race favorite because he has proven that he can stalk the pace and win. Plus, Essential Quality has displayed a fighting spirit getting to the wire. The challenge here is that is the most talented field he has competed in and he is up against some older horses including his fast stablemate Knicks Go.

When I looked at the final 3 to 4 furlong times in the last two starts for every horse in this field and then converted the times into miles per hour, Essential Quality had the highest with a 38.04 mph estimated speed in the Travers Stakes. That was in the last four furlongs at Saratoga that is not considered a speed track. No other horse was in the 37 or 38mph range in their last two starts. The next highest was Hot Rod Charlie at 36.82 mph in the Haskell Stakes back in July.

You never really know how a horse will ship halfway across the country and how he will take to the Del Mar track that he has never raced on. However, my feeling is that if I am going to bet and lose, I will take solace knowing that I bet the fastest horse who has only lost one race in 9 career starts.

In superfecta betting, I would include Max Player and Hot Rod Charlie. Max Player is a very good 10 furlong runner and he is consistent. He is not likely to win but I am considering using him in an exacta along with Essential Quality and Knicks Go. Hot Rod Charlie is a horse who can surprise in this field but I generaly think Essential Quality is the faster and more talented three-year-old.

So I am placing a big win bet on Essential Quality and a $1 Superfecta bet keying Essential Quality to win: 4 over 3,5,8,9 (Hot Rod Charlie, Knicks Go, Medina Spirit and Max Player).

I will update this blog clear up until post-time in case there are any scratches or weather changes.


  1. Hi Michael,
    I think Knicks Go fades just enough for EQ or MS to take it. Leaning EQ but hard to pick right now. MS having raced and won at Del Mar is a big plus.
    Hard to leave HRC out of the mix but can’t bet them all. Quality field like u say.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this shapes up to be the best race of the year. Really, I think 6 of the 9 horses are legitimate threats to win. I am not sure how I am going to bet yet. I will wait for the live odds. I envision a chaotic finish down the stretch.


    • Greek, I am betting Essential Quality for the win. I don’t know if he pulls it off tonight but I have to go the fastest horse in this race. I looked at the last 3 to 4 furlong times for this entire field in their last two starts. By far, the fastest time was Essential Quality with an estimated time at 47.31 seconds (38.04 mph) in the last four furlongs of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Saratoga is not a fast track, so that time and speed are impressive. How he ships to California and takes to the Del Mar track is the only question I here. But I will rest easy knowing that I bet on the fastest horse win or lose.


  3. Thx I’m with u. Yes the ship and track r questions. Not many Tapit horses have won there, but none of them were the quality of this horse.
    Might put a little on MS too.
    Thx again, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just hope that Luis Saez presses him up a bit more on the early pace than he did in the Travers because this field is just too fast for him to come back to win at the wire like he did in that race.


  5. Great win for Knicks Go and Brad Cox. It seems a little odd that a horse who raced at Prairie Meadows back in July (where he won the Cornhusker Handicap) goes on to win one of the biggest races in North America with the $6 million dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic. Prairie Meadows is just a 3-hour drive from KC where I live and they usually don’t see many Grade 1 winners at that track. Trust me, those fans up there in Iowa are thrilled tonight that they had the eventual Classic winner at their track.


  6. Good story. Surprised he ran there. From KC? One of my best friends lived there for 10 yrs. Moved back home to Long Beach for several reasons. He’s a huge Chiefs fan. U too?


  7. Yep, I’m a Chiefs fan since about 1969. I looked and Black Tie Affair and Fort Larned won the Cornhusker Handicap and went on to win the Breeder’s Cup Classic in 1991 and 2012 respectively. I never knew that race had as many Classic winners. At any rate, I went back and rewatched the race and look at the times. Essential Quality was the fastest horse in that field in the last 4 furlongs but he got beat out of the gate by Knicks Go and then got held up by Hot Rod Charlie a bit as they were coming onto the straight. He needed to be a 1/2 length off the pace to have a shot at Knicks Go but he was 4 lengths behind at the 3/4 mile mark. I don’t think this was a great ride by Saez at all.


  8. 65 toss power trap…! EQ was affected by Knicks Go out of the gate and ur right when he needed to make the move he was affected again. Didn’t know who it was at the time. Saez is always bad for me.


  9. Yes, I have had back luck in the big races when Saez was on board. He can’t be blamed for how EQ got out of the gate but he could have pressured him early on to get closer to the front. I mean really, EQ and Knicks Go are stablemates so he should have inside knowledge that he needed to be closer to have a shot. Instead, he allowed EQ to be in a bad position coming onto the stretch.


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