The marquee event of the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships is the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic with trainer Brad Cox sending out the two major contenders. A field of nine will line up in the 1¼-mile contest that likely will decide the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old, top older horse and Horse of the Year.
Knicks Go is the current wagering favorite in early Breeders’ Cup odds at Bovada at +250 while his stablemate Essential Quality is the second choice at +300. That would make the implied odds for Knicks Go of winning the Classic at 28.57 percent and Essential Quality at 25 percent. Not a bad spot for Cox heading into the race.
Cox managed to win four Breeders’ Cup races last year, leading him to win the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer. He won with Aunt Pearl in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Essential Quality in the Juvenile, Knicks Go in the Dirt Mile and Monomoy Girl in the Distaff.
When Is The Breeders’ Cup Horse Race?
The Classic is the last of 14 Breeders’ Cup races contested Friday and Saturday at Del Mar. The Classic will be televised on NBC with a post time of 5:40 PT. There seems little doubt that Knicks Go will be the early leader in the Classic. The five-year-old has won his last three starts, all in gate-to-wire fashion under jockey Joel Rosario.
He may not have things easy early as Kentucky Derby “winner” Medina Spirit is in the field and has plenty of early zip. The colt won the Run for the Roses going gate to wire, then tested positive for a therapeutic drug, which could end up costing him the win and the connections the prize money.
After failing to fire in the Preakness Stakes, he bounced back with a pair of wire jobs, winning the Shared Belief over the Del Mar main track going a mile and then winning the Awesome Again at Santa Anita in his final prep, that outing at 1 1/8 miles.
It seems like his jockey John Velazquez is going to send the colt early, which could produce sharp early fractions. The colt is currently listed at +500 in early Classic betting at Bovada.
Joining in on the early fun could be Hot Rod Charlie, who is currently listed at +450 at Bovada in Breeders’ Cup Classic odds. The Doug O’Neill trainee led start to finish winning the Pennsylvania Derby in his last start and adds blinkers. He will be close to the early pace.
Who Benefits From A Fast Pace In The Classic?
Art Collector (+800) also led at every call in his victory in the Woodward at Belmont Park in his final prep for the Classic. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, it was his third consecutive win. The colt does not look quick enough to be in the mix early but his jockey Mike Smith should get a good stalking trip from mid-pack in the field of nine.
Essential Quality could be the beneficiary of a fast early pace set by his stablemate. The colt was close to the pace last out in his win in the Travers, but figures to be mid-pack or further back on Saturday. The colt has won eight of his nine career starts, with his lone loss coming in the Kentucky Derby. In that outing, he came with a good run and did not have enough punch left late in a fourth-place finish while beaten just a length.
Distance is no problem for him. He won the Belmont Stakes at 1½ miles and handled the 1¼ mile distance in his Travers win this summer. Max Player participated in all three Triple Crown races last year, a third in the Belmont Stakes his best finish (the race was run at 1 1/8 miles in 2020).
The colt came from far off the pace in all of his races until the Suburban two back at Belmont Park going 1¼ miles. In that outing, he sat second and came with a good late rally to get up and beaten Mystic Guide by a neck.
He used the same strategy in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last outing and it produced the best performance of his career where he drew off to win by four lengths. He won’t be as close to the lead in the Classic but should be picking it up late.
One knock on the colt is he beat a pretty weak group in his last win and his connections, both trainer and jockey, are coming off really slow meets at Keeneland.
The Classic Long Shots Look Overmatched
Express Train (+4000) has some early speed and could be in the mix early. His last two starts don’t give us much confidence he can stick around for a share, but earlier this year he did run a solid second in the Santa Anita Handicap, beaten a half-length.
Tripoli finished behind three foes he faces again when he checked in fourth in the Awesome Again. He pulled off a mild upset in the Pacific Classic two back at today’s 1¼ mile distance. He picks up Irad Ortiz Jr. and should get the pace he needs. At least his price is right, currently listed at +2200 at Bovada in early Breeders’ Cup betting.
Stiletto Boy has outrun his odds in his last two starts, a third at 22-1 in the Shared Belief and a runner-up finish in the Awesome Again at 54-1. He can be had at +6600 right now, but he is going to need a career best and then some to be a factor in the Classic.
Completing the field is Express Train (+4000), who put in a series of five straight solid outings earlier this year, including wins in the San Pasqual and San Diego Handicap and a game second in the Santa Anita Handicap.
His last pair of efforts were not exactly inspiring, a sixth in the Pacific Classic and a third last out in the Awesome Again, beaten seven lengths. He has run well over the Del Mar main track and has a sharp trainer in his corner in John Shirreffs, who saddled Zenyatta, the lone female to win the Classic in 2009.
How Does The Classic Play Out?
So how to bet on the Breeders’ Cup Classic? It looks like Knicks Go and Medina Spirit are going to hook up early. Hot Rod Charlie could be pressing or at least chasing the early pace, which is projected to be fast.
That should set things up nicely for Essential Quality and Art Collector. Of the two, Art Collector is going to offer more bang for the buck. He has a patient rider in Hall of Famer Mike Smith and the colt appears to be sitting on a top effort. His trainer Bill Mott has won the Classic twice.
Art Collector and Essential Quality should come calling late, passing Knicks Go and Hot Rod Charlie, while Max Player comes along late for a share. I’ll play exactas with Art Collector and Essential Quality on top of Knicks Go and Hot Rod Charlie and key a few extra tickets using just Art Collector on top.
Two Contenders In Turf Out
The complexion of the Breeders’ Cup Turf changed on Thursday when within a 15-minute span two contenders were declared out of the race. The second choice Domestic Spending, a winner of six of his eight career starts, was scratched by trainer Chad Brown. The gelding was discovered to have inflammation in his left front leg.
United, who was a long shot in the Turf, was scratched by trainer Richard Mandella. The gelding has been having a suspensory issue and there was some swelling after a morning gallop that led to him being withdrawn from the race. We still are going to see a full field as the Aiden O’Brien-trained Bolshoi Boy and Channel Maker, a Bill Mott trainee, will now draw into the field.
Be sure to check out my Breeders’ Cup Predictions and Best Bets. We will look for several value plays for Saturday’s card.
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Odds Shark Staff Fri, Jun 10, 8:35amHorse Racing