Betting Preview for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic

| October 12, 2021 7:13 am PDT

Just as anticipated every year as the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup World Championship Series — with the Breeders’ Cup Classic foremost among them — are coming to Del Mar Racetrack on November 5th and 6th.

For the past 36 years, the Breeders’ Cup Classic has pitted the world’s best thoroughbreds, their trainers, and their jockeys against one another in a grueling mile-and-a-quarter on the dirt tracks of North America’s prime venues.

Apart from Woodbine in 1996, the Breeders’ Cup Classic has run on American tracks like Keeneland, Santa Anita, and Churchill Downs.

The brainchild of John Gaines and other prominent thoroughbred breeders, the Breeders’ Cup World Championship was designed from the beginning to see the best of the best competing for millions of dollars in purse money.

In a little more than three decades, the Breeders’ Cup Classic has come to be considered the unofficial fourth leg of the sport’s other three top races — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

How Do You Get to the Classic?

The easy answer is, of course, practice. The long answer is a bit more complicated.

You may be familiar with the Kentucky Derby’s straightforward way of selecting horses to fill the starting gate: The Road to the Kentucky Derby — a series of graded and ungraded stakes races that award points to money-finishers. Collect enough points, and you’re on your way to Churchill Downs.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic, however, has several ways to get into the race.

  • Earn enough points in various “Challenge Series” races (similar to how the Kentucky Derby’s Road points are awarded).
  • Win one of the selected races (the “win it and you’re in it” option).
  • Get picked by a panel of experts.

The first two methods account for the first seven entries. The panel of experts selects the other seven to round out the 14-horse field of each year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Early Odds for the Breeders’ Cup Classic

However, the horse gets to the starting gate, he or she can be honestly touted as one of the best 14 horses in the world.

And they won’t just be competing for bragging rights — The 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic dangles a $6 million purse at the finish line for encouragement.

Let’s look at the top 15 likely participants in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic, along with estimated odds to win, trainer, breeder, and their jockey as of last start.

Horse Odds Trainer Breeder Last Jockey
Knicks Go +300 Brad H. Cox Angie Moore Joel Rosario
Essential Quality +400 Brad H. Cox Godolphin Luis Saez
Hot Rod Charlie +900 Doug F. O’Neill Edward A. Cox Jr. Flavien Prat
Maxfield +1400 Brendon P. Walsh Godolphin Jose Ortiz
Max Player +800 Steven M. Asmussen K & G Stables Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Tripoli +1600 John Sadler Blue Devil Racing Stable, LLC Tiago Pereira
Medina Spirit +1600 Bob Baffert Gail Rice John Velazquez
Mishriff N/A John & Thady Gosden Nawara Stud Limited David Egan
Letruska N/A Fausto Gutierrez St. George Stables Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Life Is Good +800 Todd Pletcher Gary & Mary West Stable, Inc. Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Express Train +6600 John A. Shirreffs Dixiana Farms LLC Juan Hernandez
Tizamagician +3300 Richard Mandella Woodford Thoroughbreds Flavien Prat
Rock Your World +2000 John Sadler Ron McAnally & Deborah McAnally Umberto Rispoli
Happy Saver +1200 Todd Pletcher Wertheimer et Frere Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Midcourt +0000 John A. Shirreffs Dixiana Farms LLC Edwin Maldonado

Triple Crown Stars Light the Way at the Breeders’ Cup Classic

If you’ve scanned the table above, you’ve already noticed some very familiar names among the potential competitors.

Medina Spirit, Max Player, Hot Rod Charlie, Essential Quality, and Rock Your World all competed in one of the Triple Crown races this year.

In fact, Essential Quality won the Belmont Stakes.

Top Jockeys We’ll See at the Breeders’ Cup Classic

According to their Wins/WPS stats, we have plenty of superstars looking for a chance to ride the winner in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Here are the top four.

Juan Hernandez

Juan Hernandez has won plenty of graded and ungraded stakes races, but he’s only moneyed in one Breeders’ Cup match, placing second in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aboard Anneau d’Or.

On the other hand, he has the best overall win/WPS percentages of this group.

Flavien Prat

Flavien Prat, on the other hand, has plenty of experience in the Breeders Cup series, winning three and finishing in the money an additional 14 times over the years. 

Regardless of the race, if Prat is aboard one of the horses, you’re halfway to guessing the winner.

Umberto Rispoli

Despite his comparatively brief experience, Umberto Rispoli has already established himself as one of the top jockeys working today.

He’s ridden winners in the Santa Anita Derby (Rock Your World) and the Shoemaker Mile Stakes (Smooth Like Strait).

Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Are you as surprised as I am that Irad Ortiz, Jr. wasn’t at the top of this list?

Irad has been the jockey to beat every race I’ve seen him ride in, and he just keeps getting better.

While I’m basing the ranking of these jockeys on overall career statistics, Irad Ortiz, Jr. would be at the top of this list if I were basing this on 2021 stats alone.

Top Trainers at the Classic

The four top trainers (according to their Wins/WPS stats) on our list above are Brad Cox, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, and Steve Asmussen.

The four of them represent six of the potential contestants at the Classic.

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert has an impressive 17 wins in various Breeders’ Cup races over the years, including four wins of the Classic (Authentic 2020, Arrogate 2016, American Pharoah 2015, and Bayern 2014).

Anything he gets to the starting gate at Del Mar will be formidable.

He was inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.

Brad Cox

Brad Cox has taken seven horses to victories in various Breeders Cup matches, but yet doesn’t show a winner for the Classic.

He has taken Monomoy Girl to two Breeders’ Cup Distaff wins (2019 and 2020), so he’s got that going for him.

Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher has won eleven Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2019 Classic with Vino Rosso.

He’s campaigned stakes races for nearly three decades and was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

Steve Asmussen

Asmussen has won seven Breeders’ Cup matches, including a win at the Classic twice — one in 2007 with Curlin and again in 2017 with Gun Runner.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

Let’s Not Forget the Breeders

This is, after all, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. And while jockeys focus on the race at hand, and trainers concern themselves with the midrange strategery of plotting a thoroughbred’s course for the next race or perhaps the two or three after that.

The breeders must plan years and even decades into the future, pitting their knowledge of bloodlines against their equally knowledgeable peers in the industry.

Interestingly enough, the two breeders that stand out this year are quite different; The global operation known as Godolphin, and the much more modest but long-established Dixiana Stables.

Godolphin has thoroughbred stables and breeding farms in the UAE, the UK, the US, Australia, Ireland, and Japan. If someone’s setting up a jockey club in Antarctica, expect Godolphin to be a founding member.

With so many ways to build a solid team of connections for an equally solid herd of thoroughbreds, Godolphin certainly has advantages.

Dixiana has taken a different approach. They have bred thoroughbreds in one location for 142 years. Which strategy will work – at least for this race, this year?

Is That All?

Of course not. This is just a preview of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

You can expect to see a much closer look at the odds and the top horses as the first weekend in November approaches.

Keep an eye on the latest news to stay up to date.

J.W. Paine
J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

More Posts by J.W. Contact J.W.



September Casino of the Month
Welcome Bonus 250% up to $5,000
Back to top