Breeders’ Cup Classic Predictions, Top Picks, Odds (Del Mar)

Breeders’ Cup Classic Post Position and Odds

Check out our predictions and odds for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 TRIPOLI 15/1
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I Ortiz Jr J Sadler
2 EXPRESS TRAIN 20/1
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V Espinoza J Shirreffs
3 HOT ROD CHARLIE 4/1
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F Prat D O’Neill
4 ESSENTIAL QUALITY 3/1
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L Saez B Cox
5 KNICKS GO 5/2
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J Rosario B Cox
6 ART COLLECTOR 8/1
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M Smith W Mott
7 STILLETO BOY 30/1
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K Desormeaux E Moger Jr
8 MEDINA SPIRIT 4/1
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J Velazquez B Baffert
9 MAX PLAYER 8/1
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R Santana Jr S Asmussen

Best Bets for the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Here are my plays ($80 in total)

$10 Exacta part wheel – Hot Rod Charlie over Essential Quality and Medina Spirit = $20

$10 Exacta box – Hot Rod Charlie, Essential Quality and Medina Spirit = $60

If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Hot Rod Charlie (4/1)

Reigning Eclipse Award winner trainer Brad Cox looks to earn his first win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as he brings the formidable duo of Essential Quality and Knicks Go as the two-morning line favorites for the 38th running of the $6 million affairs on Saturday at Del Mar.

The older Knicks Go was pegged as the 5-2 favorite in the 9-horse field but is set to race beyond 1 1/8 miles for the first time in his career. The speedy son of Paynter will look to take them all the way in the 10-furlong Classic, just as he has done in impressive Grade 1 wins in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Pegasus World Cup, and Whitney. If he is successful, the Horse of the Year title will likely be his.

The same could be said about Essential Quality. The 2-year-old champion last year has not missed a step since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2020. He has added five more graded stakes wins this year, highlighted by victories in the Belmont Stakes and Travers. The leader of a strong 3-year-old crop, he will be meeting some familiar rivals on Saturday.

Chief among the Cox opposition will be a pair of sophomores who finished ahead of Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby, in Medina Spirit and Hot Rod Charlie. The former runs for trainer Bob Baffert and finished first in this year’s Run for the Roses, as well as the recent Awesome Again Stakes, while Hot Rod Charlie comes in off an impressive victory in the Pennsylvania Derby last time.

Race Analysis

Knicks Go

Despite the fact that this 5-year-old four-time Grade 1 winner is the morning-line favorite, I still see him as a bit of a wild card. It’s certainly possible that he is simply too fast for the rest and runs to the lead and is never headed, but given the fact that there is another quality speed in the race which is farther than he has ever been, I could also see him ready to give up the lead as they turn for home. He’s had things pretty much his own way in all of his many impressive wins since joining the Cox barn last year, but losses in the Saudi Cup and Met Mile have me believing that he is vulnerable to the early pressure in this spot. An obvious danger, I am going to try to beat him.

Essential Quality

It’s been a wonderful career for this champion son of Tapit. The Classic will be his tenth and final career race, and he has a big shot to make it his ninth win. Unlike the other three favorites, he is perfectly content to sit back a little farther and get a bird’ eye view of how things unfold in front of him. That could be a wonderful ability to have on Saturday, provided one of the early leaders does not have things to himself. This will be a test as he faces older horses for the first time and runs out in California for the first time. Those are questions that need to be answered, but as consistent as he has been, I am expecting another strong performance. He is certainly a major player in here and with a good trip, he might just be the horse to beat.

Medina Spirit

The unofficial winner of the Kentucky Derby has proven to be a very dangerous speed horse while finishing first or second in 8-of-9 career starts. Early in the year, he was not able to get by his talented former stablemate Life Is Good, and that may be the problem in here, as well, as he chases Knicks Go early. Drawing an outside post should give his Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez a tactical advantage to see how the pace unfolds to his inside. Still, I think he will need to be aggressive and not let the morning line favorite sneak off early. His last, in winning the Grade 1 Awesome Again by 5 lengths may have been his best yet. He is one of the big four in here and deserves serious respect.

Hot Rod Charlie


This son of Oxbow might just be ready for the biggest victory of his career. Despite winning a pair of million-dollar races in the Louisiana and Pennsylvania Derbies, he has been often unlucky in the biggest races, having been taken down in the Haskell and narrowly losing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Kentucky Derby, and Belmont Stakes. He looks like he is coming up to this race in the best form of his career and is well proven at classic distances. While he is very capable of taking the early lead, he has proven the ability to stalk and pass as well. That could be a great trip if he can first jump on Knicks Go and Medina Spirit. Familiar with the oval and working well, he will be my top pick in a very contentious edition of the Classic.

Art Collector

An up-and-coming 3-year-old last season, he had to miss the Derby and then disappointed in the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He has earned another shot at the big time this year with three straight solid victories in stakes company, most recently scoring in the Grade 1 Woodward. Like three of the four favorites, though, he does his best running on or near the lead. Perhaps he can work out a similar stalking trip as I foresee for Hot Rod Charlie, but less proven at the distance or against the best, I can’t like him in here as much as my top pick.

Max Player

Trained by Steve Asmussen, this 4-year-old son of Honor Code had plenty of chances against top horses last year and was unable to truly contend. Still, he was good enough to finish third in both the Belmont and Travers. This year has been a tale of two halves for Max Player, as he looked pretty awful in his first two starts, before turning it around in his last two. Wins in the Grade 2 Suburban and the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup make him an interesting horse in here, especially at the 10-furlong distance. Still, I have my reservations that he can beat a field this talented.

Tripoli

The only long shot that really interests me, he has proven to be a solid-stakes performer since switching to the dirt four starts back. The son of Kitten’s Joy is also proven over the strip and at the distance, having powered his way to victory in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic two starts back. Unfortunately, none of the big guns he will face on Saturday were in that race, and his follow-up performance when fourth in the Awesome Again does not inspire confidence that he can handle this class. Still, a good effort would not surprise, and that could land him in one of the lower spots in the trifecta or superfecta.

Express Train

This son of Union Rags looked like he had the potential to be the top older male in California at the beginning of the year, but it has just not panned out since an impressive score in January’s Grade 2 San Pasqual. At his best, he can compete with good horses, and he does have some nice performances over the Del Mar main track, but in winning only one of his last six, he has proved inconsistent and a cut below the best in here. He looks likely to finish only mid-pack or worse in the biggest race of his career.

Stilleto

Likely to be the longest shot in the Classic, this son of Shackleford made a favorable impression last time when he finished second behind Medina Spirit in the Awesome Again at odds of 54/1. An upset winner of the Iowa Derby a few starts before that, he has struggled for respect, while running some nice races this year. Having said that, he wasn’t able to get close to the winner in his last race and it only gets tougher on Saturday. I’m also not sure the extra distance of the Classic will do him any favors. A nice horse, but I can’t play against this group.

How to watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Breeders’ Cup Classic Race Information
Race Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1)
Location Del Mar
Time Saturday, November 6 — 8:40pm Eastern time
How to Watch NBC Sports
Purse $6,000,000

 

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

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