Breeders’ Cup 2021 Races Picks and Preview

On Saturday, November 6 the best horses in the world will face off at Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup in a card that features nine Grade 1 races. Below you will find a brief analysis and my picks for each of the races on the card. I also provide a more in-depth breakdown for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races on the Win, Place, Show podcast. 

Name: Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

Post time: 3:05 PM ET

Distance: 7 furlongs

Age: 3-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: The first of the Breeders’ Cup race on Saturday is a small field because so many people are ducking Gamine (4-5) who is the return champion from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She’s just as dominant as ever and there is no reason to believe anyone will provide resistance. Bella Sofia (3-1) is clearly the second-best horse in the field while Ce Ce (6-1) has dispatched many of the long shots in the rest of the field with ease in previous races. I have a feeling we’ll some regression from the blistering summer numbers Bella Sofia posted at Saratoga, but she’s still a formidable filly. There will be other races later in the card where you can fade the favorites, but not here.

Win: Gamine

Place: Bella Sofia

Show: Ce Ce

Name: Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Post time: 3:40 PM ET

Distance: 5 furlongs

Age: 3-years-old and up 

Surface: Turf

Overview: Speaking of fading favorites, get ready to toss Golden Pal (7-5) as I think the Turf Sprint offers an opportunity for a little bit of value. Golden Pal is a nice horse with a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory under his belt but got thoroughly outclassed when he went overseas this year and ran against the best the Europeans have to offer. Additionally, some of those Europeans have come over to Del Mar for this race. One of them is Emaraaty Ana (5-1) who I really like. He’s been running increasingly better speed figures and drew a great position breaking from the inside for a five-furlong race where the first turn is going to come up on your quickly. Unlikely many European horses, he likes firm turf and has been running, and winning, Group (Grade) 1 races all year. That said, the hometown pick is going to be Lieutenant Dan (6-1) as a horse who loves Del Mar, while winning four of his last five. This will represent a step up in class, but he also has an inside post and the fact he loves the Del Mar turf is a huge plus. I’m wary of Gear Jockey (5-1) who is making an even bigger step up in competition and giving you lower odds while Kimari (6-1) has not run on turf since 2020. Also, be careful about A Case of You (8-1) who has some big speed figures but has run on almost exclusively soft or yielding turf. Therefore, I’m looking at Arrest Me Red (12-1) underneath who is a young horse taking a step up, but who has responded well each time and provides greater value.  

Win: Lieutenant Dan

Place: Emaraaty Ana

Show: Arrest Me Red

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Name: Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile

Post time: 4:19 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: We are back to betting on the favorite in this race as Life is Good (4-5) has looked amazing in workouts and his final tune-up at the Kelso was dominant. Additionally, the fact he finished a neck behind Jackie’s Warrior in a 7-furlong race after surgery and six months off should go to show you what an amazing specimen he is. Ginobli (4-1) is a very good horse who should offer some resistance to Life is Good, but ultimately is not in the same class. I’m out on Silver State who had a poor performance at Parx after breaking badly and then letting up at the wire and letting Mind Control win. Also, his Met Mile win is looking less impressive the more time passes. Therefore, I’d go with Eight Rings (10-1) underneath for some value as a horse who is traditionally a sprinter but ran a nice allowance race over a mile last time out to prep for the Breeders’ Cup and won with ease. Additionally, Eight Rings knows Del Mar and has run well there in the past.

Win: Life is Good

Place: Ginobli

Show: Eight Rings

Name: Breeders’ Cup Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf

Post time: 4:59 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Age: 3-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Turf

Overview: This might be one of the tougher races to handicap because you have so many horses coming in with different trajectories into the race. War Like Goddess (7-2) has done everything asked of her in winning six of her seven career races and often doing so with ease. On the other hand, you have Love (4-1) who had about as dominant a 2020 as any horse in the world but has been just a bit off this year finishing behind excellent horses such as Mishriff and Adayar. Love enjoys dry ground and a firm surface, so southern California may suit her perfectly but it’s still valid to wonder whether Aidan O’Brien’s super-filly has lost a half step. In a rare moment, I’m heavily fading the two Chad Brown long shots, Pocket Square (15-1) and My Sister Nat (15-1), both of whom have folded under better competition and brisker paces. Rougir (6-1) has run spectacularly, but absolutely loves soft and yielding turf, which is a problem because the turf at Del Mark will be dry and firm. Audarya, on the other hand, prefers firmer turf and would probably do better running over in the United States more often to avoid the boggy turf in Europe. None of the longshots in the field appeal to me and this is a race where I think you’ll see the winner come from the top tier of horses. Ultimately, I love War Like Goddess to win one for America.

Win: War Like Goddess

Place: Love

Show: Audarya

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Name: Breeders’ Cup Qatar Racing Sprint

Post time: 5:38 PM ET

Distance: 7 furlongs

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: If the sprints feel chalky, it’s because they are. Jackie’s Warrior (6-5) is so much better than the rest of the field it’s not worth writing much more. Special Reserve (6-1) is a classy horse who runs consistently against strong competition and can be relied upon for a professional effort each time out. At 6-1, he represents good value in exacta bets. I’m fading Dr. Schivel (4-1) slightly. Yes, he’s run at Del Mar and is familiar with the surface, but the paces of his races haven’t been overwhelming and he’s a step below the speed figures of the other horses. The outside post is a good spot for him, but I think there is too much speed elsewhere. I do like the value of Aloha West (8-1) as a horse who barely missed out beating Special Reserve last time out. I was skeptical of the horse prior to that race because it was a big step up in competition, but he handled it beautifully and I think you can expect another progression. Finally, sprint stalwart CZ Rocket (12-1) presents nice value for a horse that’s been through it all in the sprint division and can hang with the best.

Win: Jackie’s Warrior

Place: Special Reserve

Show: Aloha West

Name: Breeders’ Cup FanDuel Mile

Post time: 6:20 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: I really struggled with this race as I love Mo Forza (5-1) but ultimately there are too many new shooters he has not run against here for me to bet on him. Additionally, he’s been doing most of his damage at the Grade 2-level against the same competition. Therefore, I’m looking to a horse that really impressed last time out, Blowout (8-1), who wired the field at the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland. It’s unusual to see a horse be so successful with a front-running style in turf races where coming from off the pace is typically the more desirable trait, but Blowout, like Knicks Go or Letruska, has one strategy—go fast! Space Blues (3-1) is an outstanding European horse but has only run at a mile or longer three times in his career and one collected won victory. That said, he’s been blistering the field at 7-furlongs. Pearls Galore (12-1) represents great value underneath as he’s coming off consecutive second-place finishes at Grade 1 races the last two times out.

Win: Blowout

Place: Space Blues

Show: Mo Forza

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Name: Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff

Post time: 7:00 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Age: 3-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Never have so many people fretted over a workout video as they have while reviewing the tape of Letruska’s last workout at Del Mar, which seems to have gotten screwed up by two-year-old Brandon’smylawyer who was not supposed to gallop with Letruska but did. Speculation surfaced the juvenile outworked the super-mare while others claimed to have witnessed Letruska taking a misstep at the end of the gallop. Others believe she didn’t float over the Del Mar surface as effectively as she has other places. I should remind you that the old-time handicapper Jimmy the Greek once claimed that Secretariat was lame prior to running the fastest Kentucky Derby in history. In other words, people blow things out of proportion. I’ve been all-in on Letruska since the start of the 2021 campaign and she hasn’t let me down. I’m going to keep riding that train in what should cap her Horse of the Year candidacy. Now, I do not what to short-change the other horses in the field. Malathaat (9-2) is outstanding and, in my opinion, is the only real threat to Letruska. Beware of Clairiere (10-1) as her victory at the Grade 1 Cotillion is looking less impressive as her competition that day, Olbigatory and Always Carina, have turned in poor performance since that race. For value, I’d look inside at Private Mission (8-1) and Royal Flag (8-1). I think both are very game and have a chance to make this race tight at the end, but ultimately, I can’t go against the best horse I’ve seen all year.

Win: Letruska

Place: Malathaat

Show: Royal Flag

Name: Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf

Post time: 7:40 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: Tarnawa (9-5) is the best horse in the field and will not be winning the race because of the horrible post in the 13 spot. Breaking from the far outside is a huge disadvantage for a horse that has proven to be among the best in the world. Therefore, I’m looking a little further inside to second-choice Domestic Spending (4-1) who has a question mark regarding distance but can absolutely fly past horses in the homestretch. The race should set up nicely for him and he’s going to be well-rested having not run since August. I cannot see Chad Brown being shut out from the turf races this year and I think Domestic Spending is the one that brings it home for him. Two 8-1 horses I like quite a bit underneath are Walton Street and Gufo. Walton Street absolutely blistered the field at Woodbine last time out and has been getting faster with each new effort while Gufo has been an outstanding summer capped off with a victory at the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. Gufo’s trainer, Christophe Clement, has been doing quite well recently while Walton Street’s trainer, Charles Appleby, is among the best in the world. I like the value both horses represent on a day where I think the best horse in the field won’t win.

Win: Domestic Spending

Place: Walton Street

Show: Gufo

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Name: Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic

Post time: 8:40 PM ET

Distance: 1 ¼ miles

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Well, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. I’ve played this race out in my mind a thousand times for the last month and no matter how hard I try to envision something different; it always comes down to the same two horses—Knicks Go and Essential Quality. It’s a wonderful clash of styles with Knicks Go running to the front with a blistering pace while Essential Quality sits in a stalking position and just keeps gaining ground with every stride and always seems to just have enough to win. Medina Spirit (4-1) got a great draw starting from the outside, but I don’t think that’s enough for him to win. He doesn’t stalk and come from off the lead. When he’s confronted horses with great early speed, he’s lost. I think the same thing will happen here. Hot Rod Charlie (6-1) turned in the best second-place performance I’ve seen all year at the Belmont Stakes where he ran the fastest opening quarter of a mile in the history of the race and somehow didn’t collapse down the stretch after 1 ½ miles. His Pennsylvania Derby victory over Midnight Bourbon might not have seemed particularly impressive, but the horse that finished third in that race, Americanrevolution, just crushed the field at the Empire Classic Handicap. I really like Max Player (8-1) as a horse, but the race does not set up well for him at all as his new riding style requires him to be close to Knicks Go, which is a recipe for disaster. If you want to chase value, look on the inside to Tripoli (15-1) to hit the board behind the top two. So, who is going to win? Well, it’s going to be a gray Brad Cox horse, but that doesn’t tell you much. Ultimately, I like the horse that always seems to just have enough and for Essential Quality to track Knicks Go down in the final furlong and win the Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic and in the process win Horse of the Year.

Win: Essential Quality

Place: Knicks Go

Show: Hot Rod Charlie

Get all of Matthew’s horse racing coverage by following him on Twitter at @failedtomenace, by subscribing to Amalfi Media’s YouTube channel, and following The Win Place Show podcast.

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