Handicapping the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Championships

Written By Paul Bergeron on November 3, 2021

There will be fans in the stands this weekend as the Breeders’ Cup World Championships (BC) returns to Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego for two of the most exciting days of horse racing.

Expect high-volume wagering, high-priced payouts, and high-volume cheering where the surf meets the turf. Remember, fans were not allowed at last year’s BC due to COVID-19.

The event opens Friday, Nov. 5 with “Future Stars Friday” with five races on the day’s overall race card. Each race welcomes the world’s top 2-year-old runners, highlighted by Race 9 – the Juvenile – at 7:50 p.m. ET. That race often is referred to as the “potential Kentucky Derby preview” as many of its entrants are assumed to be on the 2021 Derby trail. Race 10 on Friday is the Juvenile Turf.

Friday’s BC action begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), and at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and NBC (after 8 p.m.).

Weather over the two days is expected to be dry and mostly sunny with temperatures in the high 60s.

Saturday offers nine BC races on the day’s overall card, beginning with Race 4 at 3:05 p.m. The climax is Race 12, the Classic, at 8:40 p.m. ET.

The Breeders’ Cup is known to provide some of the largest and most dramatic life-changing payouts in the sport. While recent years have not seen as many double-digit odds horses winning races as in the past, the event’s Pick-6 wagering options – where bettors must choose the winner in Races 7 through 12 – paid $33,393 on a $1 ticket in 2020. Successful horse players have raked in as much as $1.8 million on a $2 Pick-6 ticket in 2003 and $2.6 million on a $2 ticket in 2009.

Saturday’s Pick-6 begins with Race 7, scheduled for 4:59 p.m. ET. The minimum Pick-6 bet is $1.

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Handicapping Tips for Breeders’ Cup betting

If you plan to bet on the Breeders’ Cup, some pre-race-race day handicapping advice:

  • Start your handicapping early. Nearly every horse in every race must be considered. These are the best horses in the world, or they would not have entered.
  • Check how the horse has performed at Del Mar in the past – if at all.
  • Check for jockey mounts to see how the horse raced with that particular jockey on board in the past.
  • Know that European horses often run well in Turf races, and that the turf conditions play a factor in those outcomes abroad. Just because they have a strong turf record doesn’t mean it will translate to Del Mar. Some turf-race entrants might be making their US debut and racing on surface conditions they might not prefer.

Friday’s races

Here is a quick look at highlights for Friday’s key race before we dive into the main event Saturday:

In Race 9, the Juvenile, among 12 entries, morning line (ML) favorite JACK CHRISTOPHER (4-5) drew the inside post; and second favorite CORNICHE (5-2) starts furthest wide. COMMAND PERFORMANCE (5-1) and longshot OVIATT CLASS (20-1) can be considered.

Highlights of Saturday’s races for Breeders Cup betting

R4 Filly and Mare Sprint: Defending champion GAMINE (3-5) has won all four starts this year with barely a test. It’s her first start at Del Mar, though has trained there extensively in the past. CECE (4-1) could spoil it for this heavy favorite in the six-horse field.

R5 Turf Sprint: The 14-horse field includes three from trainer Bill Mott, including last year’s Juvenile Sprint winner GOLDEN PAL (7-2), this year’s ML favorite. Defending champ GLASS SLIPPERS is 6-1.

R6 Dirt Mile: March’s 2021 Kentucky Derby favorite LIFE IS GOOD (4-5), who scratched from that race, is a neck away from perfection in five starts. GINOBILI (4-1) won twice at Del Mar this summer.

R7 Filly and Mare Turf: Speaking of European horses on the turf, one Breeders’ Cup play to consider is taking the “other” European horse. In turf races, there is often one Euro that is more accomplished and takes the bulk of the betting money.

More to keep your eye on

Other foreign contenders can fall through the cracks in the horse betting pools and become overlays.

AUDARYA (5-1), winner of last year’s Filly & Mare Turf at 17-1, is one example. This year, AUDARYA returns to the same race but doesn’t figure to be a good bet. She will be among the favorites, and the added distance in this year’s edition may hurt her chances. With multiple contenders in the race, perhaps LOVES ONLY YOU (4-1) will fall through the cracks. A Group 1 winner in Japan, she faced a quality field in the Dubai Sheema Classic and finished a close third, only a half-length behind the talented Mishriff (had three Grade 1 wins this year).

R8 Sprint: Favorite JACKIE’S WARRIOR (6-5) is a neck shy of a flawless campaign in sprints, but has yet to tackle older horses. DR. SCHIVEL (4-1) has won five straight on the west coast, including two at Del Mar.

R9 Mile: Do not ignore trainer Chad Brown on turf. He sends out RAGING BULL (15-1) and BLOWOUT (8-1) at a price.

R10 Distaff: LETRUSKA (8-5) has dominated this year as the division’s clear leader among this set, and handed 2020 Kentucky Oaks heroine SHEDARESTHEDEVIL (4-1) her only loss of the current season. LETRUSKA will be one of the heaviest favorites of the weekend.

R11 Turf: In another “other” European horse angle, TARNAWA (9-5) will be a deserving favorite after also winning this race last year. She could easily go off at 3-2 or lower. The value play may be TEONA (6-1), the rapidly improving three-year-old filly who just won her first Group 1 on a firm course at Longchamp. With other contenders coming from Chad Brown, Aiden O’Brien and Godolphin, TEONA’S post-time odds to be much better.

R12 Classic: ESSENTIAL QUALITY (3-1) will try to become the first BC Juvenile winner to come back and win the Classic the following year. He’s one of eight entries in The Classic, which includes the country’s top-ranked horse KNICKS GO (5-2), who last year won the Dirt Mile and is one of six returning 2021 BC champions. It also includes last year’s Juvenile runner-up HOT ROD CHARLIE (4-1), who went off at 99-1, and much improved MAX PLAYER (8-1).

Good luck!

Photo by Cheryl Ann Quigley / Shutterstock
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Paul Bergeron

Paul Bergeron is a freelance reporter based in Herndon, Va. His 30-year career includes positions in the sports department at daily newspapers, including The Washington Post; and association publications related to the apartment industry. Currently, he writes regularly for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), commercial real estate firm CoStar and various industry blogs from his Thought Leadership Today platform on LinkedIn. He can be reached at [email protected]

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