What to Know About the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Races on Championship Saturday

What to Know About the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Races on Championship Saturday

The day racing fans wait all year for is rapidly approaching: Breeders’ Cup Saturday! The second day of racing’s All-Star weekend will take place Saturday, Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

There will be nine championship races on the card as some of the country’s top horses will square off in the quest to be called a Breeders’ Cup champion. The headline event, as usual, is the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. That race will wrap up the evening and has major Horse of the Year implications.

Live coverage begins on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET, and moves to NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s races – read about Future Stars Friday here.

FILLY AND MARE SPRINT

Distance: 7 furlongs on dirt

Post time: 3:05 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3, Pick 4

Background: This race debuted in 2007 as the female equivalent to the long-standing Sprint. It’s contested at seven furlongs, one-eighth of a mile longer than the Sprint. As such, it plays more toward closers. No horse has won the Filly and Mare Sprint in gate-to-wire fashion.

Favorites: The conversation in the Filly and Mare Sprint begins, continues, and ends with Gamine. She’s won five races in a row, including all four of her starts this year. She won this race last year by 6 ¼ lengths, and she’s won all of her starts this year by at least 1 ½ lengths. Her presence has scared away most of the competition — only six others are pre-entered in the race, and one of them, Truth Hurts, is expected to race at Belmont Park on Sunday instead. If she loses this race, it would be a major upset.

Interesting Storylines: No 3-year-old filly won this race during its first decade of existence. However, 3-year-old fillies have now won the last three editions, including Gamine last year. Bella Sofia is the lone 3-year-old filly in this year’s race. Purchased for only $20,000 last year (in contrast to Gamine, who sold for $1.8 million), she debuted in May of this year, and has won four of five starts, including two graded stakes races. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez is looking for his first Breeders’ Cup win.

TURF SPRINT

Distance: 5 furlongs on turf

Post time: 3:40 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3, all-turf Pick 4

Background: First held in 2008, this race has a reputation for being the most difficult one to handicap on Breeders’ Cup weekend. No winner has gone off at less than 2.30-1. Americans had won every edition of this race until last year when European Glass Slippers pulled off the 10.20-1 upset. This race is limited to 12 horses.

Favorites: The Europeans’ best hope for a second consecutive win lies with A Case of You and Emaraaty Ana. A Case of You lost the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh by half a length two races back and then won the Prix de la’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines by a head for his first Group 1 victory. He’d be the second 3-year-old to win this race, joining Bobby’s Kitten in 2014. Emaraaty Ana won the Betfair Sprint Cup last out in an 11-1 upset.

Wesley Ward has three horses in the main body of the race, including prospective favorite Golden Pal. Golden Pal won the Juvenile Turf Sprint last year and has won both of his American starts so far this year. In the Woodford Stakes Presented by TVG at Keeneland last out, he won in gate-to-wire fashion by 2 ¼ lengths.

Interesting Storylines: Glass Slippers, who has finished third in each of her three starts this year, will seek a second consecutive Turf Sprint title. She’d become the third horse to win two consecutive Turf Sprints, joining Mizdirection in 2012-’13 and Stormy Liberal in 2017-’18.

Caravel is the first horse on the also-eligible list, and she may get in because Casa Creed, who is in the main body of the race, has first preference in a different race. Caravel came from humble origins, bred in Pennsylvania by co-owner and former trainer Elizabeth Merryman. She won two Pennsylvania-bred stakes last year and won three stakes in a row earlier in this year, including the Caress Stakes at Saratoga. Following that win, Merryman sold a 75% stake in the filly to Bobby Flay and transferred her to trainer Graham Motion. This filly would be the first Pennsylvania-bred to win the Turf Sprint.   

BIG ASS FANS DIRT MILE

Distance: 1 mile on dirt

Post time: 4:19 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3, Pick 4

Background: This race was first held in 2007. It either tends to attract route horses not quite good enough to race in the Classic or sprinters who find the six furlongs of the Sprint to be too short. Three favorites have won this race: Goldencents in 2014, Liam’s Map in 2015, and Knicks Go in 2020. Knicks Go will be one of the favorites in this year’s Longines Classic.

Favorites: Earlier this year, Life Is Good was the top prospect in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. He won two Derby prep races, including an impressive eight-length win in the San Felipe Stakes. He was injured not long after that race and went to the sidelines until August. Since coming back, he finished second in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes in an exciting stretch battle with Jackie’s Warrior and then won the Kelso Handicap by 5 ½ lengths. He has abundant early speed and is a serious threat to lead this race from start to finish.

Silver State was in good form earlier in the year, including wins in the Oaklawn Handicap and the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Mile. In his last two starts, he was third in the Whitney Stakes and then checked in second in the Parx Dirt Mile after abruptly stopping when he hit the lead. He’s out for redemption here.

Interesting Storylines: A pair of Japanese horses entered the Dirt Mile as that country sends over their biggest Breeders’ Cup contingent yet. Jasper Prince was last in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year, and he won the Enif Stakes at Chukyo last out. Pingxiang won his last two starts, the Kamakura Stakes and the Tempozan Stakes. Both horses were bred in Kentucky and are trained by Hideyuki Mori.

MAKER’S MARK FILLY AND MARE TURF

Distance: 1 ⅜ miles on turf

Post time: 4:59 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3, Pick 6

Background: First held in 1999, this race has been contested at a wide variety of distances since its inception. It’ll be run at 1 ⅜ miles for the first time since 2017, which was the last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Del Mar. Europeans have won four of the last five editions of this race. The last North American horse not trained by Chad Brown to win was Perfect Shirl in 2011.

Favorites: Many of the major contenders, including Love, Queen Supreme, Tarnawa, and Teona, have first preference in other races. If none of them runs in the Filly and Mare Turf, it would shake up the race dramatically.

War Like Goddess is one of the strongest American contenders. She’s won four graded stakes races this year for Bill Mott. She went off at progressively lower odds in all those races, leaving the gate at 3-10 odds in the Flower Bowl Stakes last out. Mott is looking for his first win in the Filly and Mare Turf. Going to Vegas, a three-time graded stakes winner at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar, is the best hope for the West.

Last year’s winner, Audarya, ships in from Europe and could join Ouija Board as the second two-time winner of the Filly and Mare Turf and the first repeat winner in the race’s history.

Interesting Storylines: Chad Brown has won this race a record four times. He’ll send out two horses in his bid to win a fifth edition. Pocket Square has won three of five starts this year, including the Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park. My Sister Nat closed to win the Waya Stakes last out after finishing in the top three in three consecutive stakes races.

Richard Baltas and Ken McPeek have not yet won a Breeders’ Cup race. They’re looking to change that this year. Baltas will saddle Going to Vegas, while McPeek has Reina de Mollendo, an interesting candidate in her own right. She won the Clasico Pamplona in Peru last out and makes her U.S. debut here. She’d be the first South American to win the Filly and Mare Turf.

QATAR RACING SPRINT

Distance: 6 furlongs on dirt

Post time: 5:38 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3, Pick 5

Background: The first “original seven” race of the day, the Sprint features some of the country’s fastest horses in a three-quarter mile dash. In recent years, speed horses have done well in this race. Whitmore, who came from seven lengths out of it last year, was the first horse to come from more than 3 ½ lengths off the pace in almost a decade. Elmhurst in 1997 was the last horse to come from behind to win the Sprint at a West Coast track.

Favorites: This year’s Sprint goes through Jackie’s Warrior. Last year, he was the favorite in the Juvenile but flattened out and finished fourth. After a dull try in the Southwest Stakes earlier this year, his connections have kept him around one turn and he’s thrived. He’s won four stakes from five starts and is a head defeat away from touting five consecutive stakes wins. He was the 1-20 favorite in the Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx last out and won by 6 ¾ lengths without ever being seriously asked. He’s going to be tough to beat if he runs his race. 

Interesting Storylines: Veteran sprinter Firenze Fire will make his final start in the Sprint. He’s won 13 stakes races in his career and has earned more than $2.7 million. He made headlines earlier in the year when he tried to take a bite out of his rival, Yaupon, in the stretch of the Forego Stakes. For the past three years, he’s shown up in almost every major sprint stakes in New York and always gives it his best shot.

Dr. Schivel has rapidly improved since returning from a long layoff for trainer Mark Glatt. He won the Bing Crosby Stakes and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in his last two races. Glatt is looking for his first Breeders’ Cup win.

FANDUEL MILE PRESENTED BY PDJF

Distance: 1 mile on turf

Post time: 6:20 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3, Pick 4

Background: As usual, this year’s Mile has a decidedly international flavor. Six different countries have breeding representation this year: the United States, England, Ireland, France, Brazil, and Japan. In the past decade, only three Europeans have won this race as the balance of power in the division has begun to shift toward the Americans after years of European dominance.

Favorites: The best American hope may be Mo Forza for trainer Peter Miller and jockey Flavien Prat. He’s only raced twice this year but won both his starts, taking the Del Mar Mile and the City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita. He loves the Del Mar grass course, finishing in the top two in five of his six starts on the turf course. Prat is one of the top grass jockeys in the country but he’s never won the Mile.

On the European side, Charlie Appleby has had plenty of success with his shippers to North America this year. He’ll send Master of the Seas over for the Mile. That horse won the Bet365 Craven Stakes earlier in the year and finished second in the prestigious QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas Stakes. Appleby’s regular rider, William Buick, is also looking for his first Mile victory

Interesting Storylines: Freddie Head holds the record for most Mile wins by a trainer, sending Goldikova to victory every year from 2008-’2010. Mark Casse has won this race twice, and will try to tie Head’s record with Got Stormy. She defeated males to win the Fourstardave Stakes at Saratoga, one of several times in her career she’s beaten the boys. Got Stormy would be the eighth female horse to win the Mile. Blowout, Mother Earth, and Pearls Galore are the other female horses in the main body of the field.

LONGINES DISTAFF

Distance: 1 ⅛ miles on dirt

Post time: 7 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double, Pick 3

Background: The female equivalent of the Classic, the Distaff has a laundry list of champions among its winners. Last year, Monomoy Girl capped off a perfect 4-for-4 season with a dominant 1 ¾-length Distaff win en route to her second career Eclipse Award.

Favorites: The road to victory in this year’s Distaff goes through Letruska. She’s been almost perfect this year, scoring six stakes wins from seven starts. A dominant front-runner, she hasn’t trailed at any point of call in her last five races. There was some talk about racing her in the Classic, but her connections have decided to keep her in her division and race her in the Distaff. She’s going to go straight to the lead and she may prove very tough to catch. A win would make her a serious Horse of the Year contender.

Interesting Storylines: Bill Mott has won the Distaff a record five times, most recently with Royal Delta in 2012. He’ll try to get his sixth Distaff triumph with Horologist. She’s won two ungraded stakes this year and most recently finished second in the Beldame Stakes. If she wins, she’ll be the second New Jersey-bred horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race. The first was Open Mind, who won the 1988 Juvenile Fillies.

This year’s Distaff features plenty of international flavor. Marche Lorraine is a three-time winner this year in Japan, while Blue Stripe most recently won the Criadores Stakes in her native Argentina. If either one prevailed, they’d be the first horse based outside the United States to win the Distaff.

LONGINES TURF

Distance: 1 ½ miles on turf

Post time: 7:40 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5, double

Background: The co-feature of the Breeders’ Cup card usually attracts a very international field and this year is no exception. There’s only four North American-bred horses in the main body of the race, and six horses are based outside of this country. Since 2007, only three American-based horses have won: Little Mike in 2012, Main Sequence in 2014, and Bricks and Mortar in 2019.

Favorites: Tarnawa won this race last year at 4.70-1. If you like her again this year, you probably won’t get as good a price. She finished second in two major European races this year, losing the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by less than a length each. She has a big chance to become the third horse to win the Turf back-to-back years, and the first female horse to accomplish that feat. Other notable Europeans include a pair of 3-year-olds for Charlie Appleby, each of whom won a prep race in North America: Walton Street and Yibir. Aidan O’Brien, a six-time winner of this race, sends out Love, who won the English Oaks and English One Thousand Guineas last year and won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes earlier this year.

On the American side, Domestic Spending may be the best hope. He won the Old Forester Turf Classic and the Resorts World Casino Manhattan Stakes earlier in the year and was second in the Mr. D. Stakes at Arlington International last out.

Interesting Storylines: As noted above, O’Brien has won the Turf six times. He’s one of two trainers to win a Breeders’ Cup race six times, joining D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Juvenile Fillies six times. If O’Brien wins the Turf this year, he’d be the first trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race seven times.

One of the other international horses is Teona, who won the Qatar Prix Vermille last out. If she wins she’d be the second 3-year-old filly to win this race, joining Found in 2015.

LONGINES CLASSIC

Distance: 1 ¼ miles on the dirt

Post time: 8:40 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, jackpot super hi-5

Background: The Classic is the showcase race of the day, featuring the country’s best older dirt males. This year, several horses have a chance at an Eclipse Award with a Classic win, and a few would clinch Horse of the Year honors should they win.

Favorites: This year’s Classic runs through Brad Cox. He’ll send out the two probable favorites, and the two prime contenders for Horse of the Year, in Essential Quality and Knicks Go. Essential Quality has won three Grade 1 races this year, including the Runhappy Travers Stakes and the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. If Essential Quality wins, he’ll be the first horse to win the Belmont, the Travers, and the Classic in the same year.

Knicks Go is a two-time Grade 1 winner this year, having taken the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Whitney Stakes. He also won the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Stakes and the Lukas Classic Stakes. Knicks Go has abundant early speed and will try to take the field gate-to-wire. If either Cox trainee wins the Classic they’ll almost certainly clinch Horse of the Year honors.

Interesting Storylines: The field also includes Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Medina Spirit. He’s trying to become the fifth horse to win the Derby and the Classic in the same year, joining Ferdinand in 1987, Sunday Silence in 1989, American Pharoah in 2015, and Authentic in 2020. Medina Spirit most recently won the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita going away.