Expert Picks: How to play the 2021 Breeders' Cup Classic

Expert Picks: How to play the 2021 Breeders' Cup Classic
Photo: Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

Nine of the best horses in the world are set to battle in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic. Here is how the Horse Racing Nation team will be playing the race.

Reinier Macatangay, Setting the Pace

Winner: #3 Hot Rod Charlie

On the board: #4 Essential Quality, #8 Medina Spirit

Long shot I like: #1 Tripoli

Analysis: Knicks Go and Hot Rod Charlie both show at least one TimeformUS Speed Figure at 130 or above in this race, making them the two fastest horses. Value-wise though, Hot Rod Charlie offers bettors more for their dollars as he owns TimeformUS Speed Figures as high as Knicks Go, more versatility than his one-dimensional foe and projected higher odds. In addition, there is a chance Medina Spirit could post a mild surprise if he secures the lead early, while Essential Quality is bound to take advantage of a hot pace if one arises. Do not overlook Tripoli either, as he was compromised by Azul Coast in the Awesome Again Stakes.

Jarrod Horak, Best Bets

Winner: #4 Essential Quality

On the board: #3 Hot Rod Charlie

Long shot I like: #1 Tripoli

Analysis: Knicks Go is the one to catch but a fast pace at ten panels might be his undoing. Essential Quality is a win machine with valuable running style versatility. He can adapt to any race shape and could easily wear down the speed. Hot Rod Charlie is a gem of consistency in dirt routes and should be in the mix. Tripoli might be able to duplicate his Pacific Classic trip and could spice up the exotics. I'll play Essential Quality to win and use Tripoli underneath in exotics.

Candice Curtis, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: #9 Max Player

On the board: #4 Essential Quality

Long shot I like: #8 Medina Spirit

Analysis: With a pressured pace forecast for the Classic, I'm going with a proven off-the-pace runner: Max Player. Though Essential Quality also has this running style, he will be heavily favored and the odds will be much better on Max Player. Medina Spirit, while a confirmed pace factor, is looking fantastic in the mornings at Del Mar. He is also proven at the distance and if Knicks Go stumbles, I could totally see him leading the field like he did in the Kentucky Derby, all the way to the win.

Brad Stephens, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: #4 Essential Quality

On the board: #3 Hot Rod Charlie

Long shot I like: #1 Tripoli

Analysis: Essential Quality's lone career loss came in the Kentucky Derby, where he got hung wide in a 19-horse field. He faces 10 fewer rivals Saturday and will be the beneficiary of a hot pace. Ace jockey Luis Saez can let his mount sit comfortably while Knicks Go and Medina Spirit battle it out up front. Essential Quality will be ready to make his run turning for home, where he can pick off tired pace setters, maybe fend off a foe in one of his patented stretch duels (Hot Rod Charlie again?), and hit the wire first to finish a Hall of Fame-worthy career.

Ron Flatter, Horse Racing Nation

Winner: #6 Art Collector

On the board: #4 Essential Quality

Long shot I like: #1 Tripoli

Analysis: Art Collector has grown into his own as a 4-year-old, and he has come into his own going 3-for-3 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. If Mike Smith can rate the steaming early pace, Art Collector should be there to get there late.

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