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2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Odds and Picks to Win, Place and Show – Knicks Go, Essential Quality & Hot Rod Charlie Top Favorites

Dave F.

by Dave F. in Horse Racing

Nov 6, 2021 · 5:30 AM PDT

Breeders' Cup Classic
Essential Quality (2), with jockey Luis Saez up, and Hot Rod Charlie (4), with jockey Flavien Prat up, make their way down the home stretch during the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 5, 2021, At Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Essential Quality (2) won the race. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is likely to earn the winner Horse of the Year Accolades
  • Knicks Go has won four straight and the favorite will try to go wire-to-wire
  • Where can we find betting value in the $6 million championship event?

This is for all the marbles.

Some years by the time the Breeders’ Cup Classic comes around horses have called it a year, retired, gotten injured, or just are not in their best form. This year we have terrific older horses, the top three-year-olds, international flavor, and lots of questions to answer.

It seems very likely Knicks Go will be on the lead from the start. Can the favorite last for a-mile-and-a-quarter with potential pace pressure from the get-go? If not, who can swoop in and score?

Let’s look carefully at the Breeders Cup Classic field, examine the odds, and consider where the most betting value is present at horse racing sites.

Breeders’ Cup Classic Win, Place, Show Odds

Horse Win Odds Place Odds Show Odds
Knicks Go +250 -110 -200
Essential Quality +300 +110 -170
Hot Rod Charlie +450 +165 -115
Medina Spirit +600 +200 +105
Art Collector +800 +290 +155
Max Player +900 +325 +175
Tripoli +2500 +750 +400
Express Train +4000 +1400 +700
Stilleto Boy +6600 +2200 +1200

All odds as of November 5th

Starting in 1984 the Breeders’ Cup Classic has attracted top horses, in part because of the large purse which started at $3 million in an era that $1 million was extremely rare, and now is $6 million.

Del Mar, near San Diego, has hosted the event just one other time. Gun Runner took the main event in 2017 Where The Surf Meets the Turf. That stopped a streak of three straight three-year-olds winning the ultimate prize. Thirteen times a three-year-old has triumphed including Authentic last year.

Weather in Southern California is expected to be ideal, dry and in the ’60s. NBC has television coverage with post time slated for 8:40 pm EST. Breeders’ Cup Classic odds have fluctuated over the last several months, but it is a terrific betting race with a lot of reasonable options.


Knicks Go has won seven of nine races over the last two years with his only losses in the $20 million Saudi Cup, and in his return to the US in the Met Mile at Belmont Park. Losing to Mishriff half a world away is not a crime, and horses often struggle in their first race back from the Middle East. He consistently runs solid fields off the track.

The big question about Knicks Go is how equipped he is to go a-mile-and-a-quarter. He has never gone more than a mile and an eighth and may be better in less than classic distances. Adding to the questions are the fact there is likely to be significant pace pressure. Can Knicks Go sprint at the start, shake clear of the pressers, and hold off the closers down the stretch?


Essential Quality is not only a talented and accomplished three-year-old, but he is also a fighter. The Belmont Stakes and Travers winner has just a single loss, when he had poor racing luck at the Kentucky Derby and still finished in fourth, just a length behind Medina Spirit. Essential Quality doesn’t typically win by huge margins, but it is awfully tough to look him in the eye and get by.

Essential Quality may sit a perfect trip, just behind the leaders and looking to rally as they hit the turn.

Hot Rod Charlie was third at the Kentucky Derby, and second at the Belmont before finishing first and getting disqualified at the Haskell Invitational and winning the Pennsylvania Derby. Like Essential Quality, he should be in a perfect position to pounce if Knicks Go relents.

Since finishing second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie has not run a bad race. He may be peaking now and adds blinkers at the recommendation of top jockey Flavien Prat who thinks his focus will be improved on Saturday.

Medina Spirit finished first at the Kentucky Derby. While he may not be the Run for the Roses champ in the long run because of a drug violation, you can’t take his accomplishments on the track lightly.

After finishing third in the Preakness Stakes, trainer Bob Baffert gave Medina Spirit three months off. He returned to crush a subpar field at Del Mar, and then beat older horses in the Awesome Again Stakes. He is the only three-year-old in the field to face competition outside of his age group. Every indication suggests he will go after Knicks Go from the start.


Art Collector was a wise guy horse entering the 2020 Kentucky Derby, but got injured and had to be scratched. He finished fourth at the Preakness and was badly beaten by Knicks Go in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. After a subpar effort to start this year, he has won four straight.

Art Collector has never beaten horses of this caliber, but his potential has always been clear. His talent has shown recently, and if he can get a perfect trip, behind Knicks Go and Medina Spirit, and in front of the closers, maybe it will be his day.

Speaking of horses running well right now, Max Player has seemingly taken the leap. He was a non-factor in the 2020 Triple Crown, went to Saudi Arabia and ran poorly, and wasn’t good in his first race back in the US. That said, his last two tries are terrific.

Perhaps Max Player can roll late past pace setters off to a blistering tempo, or maybe he has just gotten good and can beat this group straight up at this point. While the Triple Crown makes legends, some horses need more time to mature and run their best.

Breeders Cup Classic Betting Strategy

Knicks Go is an ideal favorite. A horse who has not proven he can run this distance, and should be pressured from the get-go. He is talented enough to win but reasonable to bet against.

Though Medina Spirit is every bit as good as Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie, his style might make for a difficult trip. He wants to be on a hot pace and then needs to hold off a quality group of closers.

Hot Rod Charlie feels like the now horse while Essential Quality never relents. Max Player can come late to pick up the pieces

Breeders’ Cup Classic Win, Place, Show Best Bets

Win: Hot Rod Charlie (+450)
Place: Essential Quality (+110)
Show: Max Player (+175)

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