The Breeders’ Cup World Championships in Del Mar take place on November 5 and 6, with every race live on Sky Sports Racing.
With over 14 races worth in excess of $31 million in prize money over two days, the 2021 Breeders’ Cup meeting promises to be an excellent renewal in the beautiful backdrop of Del Mar, Southern California.
Here’s our handy Breeders’ Cup guide ahead of the weekend action, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
With prize money of $3.3m to the winner and a total purse of $6 million for the race, the Classic is by some margin the biggest race on the Breeders’ Cup card and is usually dominated by US-bred horses.
Frankie Dettori has seen success in this race in 2008 with the John Gosden-trained Raven’s Pass.
Breeders’ Cup Turf
A race dominated by European horses in recent years, the Turf is ran over 12 furlongs and has a purse of $4 million. Five of the last six winners have been trained in Europe, with Chad Brown’s Bricks And Mortar the exception in 2019.
Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa won the race in 2020 and will attempt to go back-to-back this year – she’s been handed a wide draw out in 13.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
Run over a mile on the grass course, the Juvenile Turf, restricted to male two-year-olds, often throws up several Group One superstars who tend to return to the Breeders’ Cup as three-year-olds.
Fire At Will won in 2020 for American trainer Michael Maker, but it is a race that Europeans have exploited in recent years. Charlie Appleby took the 2018 renewal with Line Of Duty, whilst Mendelssohn won in 2017 for Aidan O’Brien.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
Goldikova dominated the Mile from 2008-2010, becoming the first horse to win three consecutive renewals of a Breeders’ Cup race.
Often the best milers on the grass clash in this race, with Expert Eye for John Gosden and Order of Australia for Aidan O’Brien taking the race in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Arguably the best spectacle of any on Breeders’ Cup weekend, the Sprint sees the speedsters take to the track over six furlongs.
Only two horses have won this race on more than one occasion (Roy H and Midnight Lute), whilst Bob Baffert has won the race on five occasions but doesn’t have a runner in the 2021 renewal.
Breeders’ Cup Filly And Mare Turf
Another race that has been swept by the European raiders in recent times, with three of the last four winners coming from the UK or Ireland.
Wuheida and Iridessa took the race in 2017 and 2019 respectively, with Love and 2020 winner Audarya the two most likely from Europe to go close in the race this weekend.
The return to Del Mar
This year’s Breeders’ Cup signals a return to California with Del Mar Racecourse hosting the two-day meeting for the second time.
The San Diego track held the 2017 renewal of the Breeders’ Cup, with the seaside course known for drawing large crowds – over 70,000 spectators attended in 2017 with a record $25,181,317 wagered on the Classic.
Attendance limits will remain in place for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although they will have full seating capacity.
The track itself is surrounded by Del Mar Fairgrounds, the venue of San Diego County Fair, the largest of its type in America with over a million spectators regularly attending.
In 2017, Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn won the Juvenile Turf, sparking a tilt for the 2018 Kentucky Derby that would be unsuccessful.
Other notable European winners at Del Mar include Wuheida for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin in the Filly And Mare Turf, as well as Talismanic in the Turf for Andre Fabre. Gun Runner took the Classic for Steve Asmussen.
History of the Breeders’ Cup
The Breeders’ Cup was formed in 1984, initially as a single-day event until 2007, when it was expanded to a two-day meeting. The meeting has been held exclusively in America apart from the 1996 renewal, when Woodbine in Canada hosted.
It was the brainchild of thoroughbred owner-breeder John R. Gaines, who wanted to create a season-ending championship as well as help boost the sport’s image.
In recent years, the Friday of Breeders’ Cup weekend has been known as ‘Future Stars Friday’, with a string of two-year-old Group One races for juvenile horses.
Day Two features many of the feature races, including the Turf, Mile, Sprint and Classic, with over $31 million in prize money to be won across the weekend.
The Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ series has helped to boost the international element of the meeting, with several qualifying races for horses from Europe, Japan and further afield.
Only two horses have ever won three Breeders’ Cup races – Goldikova in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in the Mile and Beholder in the Juvenile Fillies (2012) and the Distaff (2013 and 2016).
Jockey Mike Smith has won the most Breeders’ Cup races (26), whilst trainer D. Wayne Lukas has trained the most with 20, including 1999 Classic winner Cat Thief.
Future Stars Friday saw a string of notable winners in 2020, including Golden Pal who landed the Juvenile Turf Sprint for Ballydoyle and Wesley Ward.
He subsequently disappointed earlier this year in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York but returns in the Turf Sprint this weekend.
Essential Quality became the early Kentucky Derby favourite with victory in the Juvenile, but he would instead win a different Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes.
Breeders’ Cup Saturday saw four European victories on the card, sweeping all the Turf races including the biggest upset of the weekend in the Mile.
That was won by Order Of Australia (73/1) for Aidan O’Brien, with Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers taking the Turf Sprint and Audarya winning by a neck in the Filly And Mare Turf for James Fanshawe.
Tarnawa – who is favourite in this season’s Turf renewal – took the feature race on the grass for Dermot Weld and Colin Keane.
The Classic was won by Kentucky Derby winner Authentic by two lengths for Bob Baffert and John Velazquez.
Ones to watch
Echo Zulu (Juvenile Fillies)
Unbeaten two-year-old Echo Zulu looks every inch a superstar for Steven Asmussen and will surely be a short-price favourite to land the Juvenile Fillies.
She breezed to Group One victories in the Spinaway Stakes and Frizette Stakes by a combined 11 lengths and faces much of the same opposition on Friday.
Asmussen landed this race in 2011 with My Miss Aurelia and he should take this prize again with Echo Zulu who could have too much finishing speed for her rivals.
Gamine (Filly And Mare Sprint)
Bob Baffert’s Gamine is bidding to go back-to-back in the Filly And Mare Sprint, having returned an emphatic six-length winner of the race in 2020.
She is unbeaten barring a third in the Kentucky Oaks, when she was subsequently disqualified after banned substance betamethasone was found in her system following post-race testing.
Her 2021 campaign has included two Group One wins at Churchill Downs and Saratoga, and has every chance of bagging a third of the season in Del Mar.
Jackies Warrior (Sprint)
Asmussen has another big chance in the Sprint with Jackies Warrior, who will attempt to make up for a rare defeat in last year’s Juvenile race, having been previously unbeaten until that point.
He was initially touted as a potential Kentucky Derby prospect but looks more at home over shorter trips, having routed Group Two fields either side of a neck victory in a Group One at Saratoga.
The race has cut up a little so he could be able to dominate from the front if the draw is kind to the three-year-old.
Golden Pal (Turf Sprint)
A name more familiar to European viewers this weekend will be Golden Pal, Wesley Ward’s speedster who has made two ventures to the UK at Royal Ascot and York.
He was an excellent second to The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot as a two-year-old, before taking the Juvenile Turf Sprint at last year’s Breeders’ Cup.
Golden Pal was a shade disappointing in the Nunthorpe at York, finishing seventh but returned with a good victory at Keeneland which should have him ready to attempt a second Breeders’ Cup success.
Knicks Go (Classic)
The likely Classic favourite Knicks Go has danced every dance in the last year, winning the Pegasus World Cup and running a good fourth in the Saudi Cup, won by Mishriff and the John & Thady Gosden team.
He won the Dirt Mile last year at Keeneland and is stepping up in trip at Del Mar for the Classic, so assuming he can handle the extra two furlongs, the five-year-old must have every chance for the Brad Cox team.