The Breeders’ Cup Classic takes place on Saturday on NBC with a strong field of horses set to go a mile and a quarter. Knicks Go is the slight morning-line favorite at odds of 5-2, while Essential Quality is the second choice at odds of 3-1. Both horses are trained by Brad Cox and if one of them wins the race they will likely be named Horse of the Year. Knicks Go has won four races in six starts this year, while Essential Quality has won three Grade 1 races this year including the Belmont Stakes. Del Mar Racetrack just north of San Diego will be hosting the two-day Breeders’ Cup that will feature 169 horses from eight countries with the Classic closing things out on Saturday at 8:40 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC.
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Breeders' Cup Classic
Post position, horse, trainer, jockey, morning-line odds
1. Tripoli, John Sadler, Irad Ortiz Jr., 15-1
2. Express Train, John Shirreffs, Victor Espinoza, 20-1
3. Hot Rod Charlie, Doug O'Neill, Flavien Prat, 4-1
4. Essential Quality, Brad Cox, Luis Saez, 3-1
5. Knicks Go, Brad Cox, Joel Rosario, 5-2
6. Art Collector, Bill Mott, Mike Smith, 8-1
7. Stilleto Boy, Ed Moger Jr., Kent Desormeaux, 30-1
8. Medina Spirit, Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 4-1
9. Max Player, Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr., 8-1
It is a nine-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile Classic. Knicks Go and Essential Quality are the top two betting choices but there are other horses who could win this race including Medina Spirit for trainer Bob Baffert. The horse is listed at odds of 4-1 and will be ridden by John Velazquez. Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby but then tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which isn't allowed in Kentucky on the day of the race. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not yet reached a decision on whether Medina Spirit will remain the Kentucky Derby winner.
Hot Rod Charlie is also listed at 4-1 and he was third in the Kentucky Derby and he finished second in the Belmont. Hot Rod Charlie is co-owned by Bill Strauss who lives in Del Mar. “We couldn’t have planned it any better, to have it in our own backyard is special,” said Strauss to the media.
The battle between Knicks Go and Essential Quality could be for Horse of the Year Honors. The two are in the running along with the mare Letruska. One of those three horses should win the award and if Knicks Go or Essential Quality win the Breeders’ Cup Classic that should clinch it. “I don’t think that’s (even a question),” Cox said to the media, “I don’t know how they wouldn’t be, to be honest.”
Knicks Go has been beaten just twice this year in six races, while Essential Quality’s only loss was a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby after a rough trip.
This will be the second time in four years that Del Mar will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup. It is worth noting that only two betting favorites won in 2017 at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup and neither of the two favorites won on the dirt. Horses based in Southern California won just three races over the two days.
Breeders’ Cup Classic Picks
I know that Knicks Go is the morning-line favorite and right now would be the favorite to win Horse of the Year but I still think Essential Quality is the better horse. The only loss in six career starts for Essential Quality was in the Derby and he got a bad trip in that race. Knicks Go has lost twice this year. Essential Quality also has the right style to win this race as he is a stalker who can rally past the early speed.
Breeders’ Cup Classic Selection: Essential Quality
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