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Breeders’ Cup First Look: Analyzing The Classic
Essential Quality winning the Travers (Credit: NYRA)

Breeders’ Cup First Look: Analyzing The Classic

We’re getting closer to the big event of the year, the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be held this year at Del Mar on November 6. With the field starting to take shape, let’s analyze the projected early runners:


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Pace Outlook

Speed: Knicks Go, Hot Rod Charlie, Medina Spirit, Letruska

Stalkers: Essential Quality, Max Player, Tripoli, Tizamagician

Closers: Maxfield, Mishriff, Express Train

Right now, the pace looks like it will be pretty hot, which is good news for everyone else in this field. The key to the race is Knicks Go. If he settles into a comfortable high cruising speed, then it could be lights out for the rest of the group. As of now, though, it does not look like that will happen.

Projected Field

Essential Quality – This guy is incredible consistent and seems to be getting better and better with each start. He also has a great running style for winning these big races. He’s never pace compromised because he comes from not too far back, which allows him to avoid traffic trouble. He’ll be the one making the biggest move turning for home, and if the pace is hot enough, then he’ll be extremely difficult to hold off down the stretch.

Knicks Go – This horse is the key to the whole race. If he’s left alone early, then he’ll run away and give them no shot. However, he’s also the type that could fade in a big way if he faces a lot of pressure early. His talent level is extremely high, so it’s going to take a really good horse to wear him out on the front end.

Maxfield – He shows up with a consistent effort every time but wasn’t good in his only prior start at this distance, and Knicks Go dusted him last time out in the Whitney Stakes (G1). He could have a chance to turn the tables, though, if Knicks Go faces more pace pressure this time around.

Hot Rod Charlie – He continues improving with each race. The 111 Beyer Speed Figure that he earned for winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) shows that he has immense talent, and he was very competitive with Essential Quality in the Belmont Stakes (G1). He also has shown that he can win both on the lead and from off the pace.

Max Player – It’s amazing how much this horse has improved in the second half of this year. He won 2 major stakes in a row and has sat closer to the pace than normal, which will be important at Del Mar. He’s become a fringe player in this race.

Tripoli – He has a win over the track, which is important, but it was over a less-than-stellar Pacific Classic (G1) field. We need to see more from him in his final prep.

Mishriff – The international star is likely not heading over for the race, but if he does, he becomes one of the few European horses to take seriously in the Classic because of his past dirt success. Usually, Euro shippers do not do well in this race.

Medina Spirit – Everybody loves to hate this horse, but he could serve a major purpose if he makes this race, mainly because he can press Knicks Go early. However, Medina Spirit looks to be a cut below this group.

Letruksa – If the filly runs in this race, then it would be good to see for pre-race hype, but this would be ultra-deep waters for her. She’s probably better suited for the Distaff.

Tizamagician – Zero shot to win, but he loves Del Mar and could hit the board at a monster number. He’s probably a cut below the top horses, though.

Express Train – Zero shot. At anything.


This race comes down to how successfully the other speed horses press Knicks Go. If they make him uncomfortable, then the race becomes wide open. That will likely happen with this group on paper, so I’m leaning towards Essential Quality to win the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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