The Breeders’ Cup Is A Betting Pilgrimage Like No Other

Written By Dave Bontempo on November 4, 2021 - Last Updated on November 29, 2021
A close up of a horse with the Breeders Cup logo in the background

The famed Breeders’ Cup, a $31 million showcase unfolding Friday and Saturday from Del Mar Race Track in California, brings gamblers a financial and emotional stake.

Beyond the money — coming from 14 championship races, some 14-horse fields, a $6 million Classic and a few lucrative payouts — is a journey to the hallowed emotional ground. Some arrive there by going to the venue. That’s an unrivaled way to witness the world’s top sprinters, distance horses, and turf and dirt specialists.

Most reach this emotional high via apps, tablets, phones and computers. They wager remotely on the summit of racing royalty.

By any method, gamblers are the ones who bring the same energy as fans to do the Super Bowl, World Series finale or even a Broadway premiere. The lowest purse is $1 million. The largest is $6 million.

This dynamic evolves even while the event battles for the same kind of publicity as the Triple Crown races.

The first Breeders’ Cup was held in 1984. It’s a baby compared to the Triple Crown races, which date back to the 1860s. They occupy the spring circuit and run on the same weekends every year.

The Breeders’ Cup doesn’t occupy the same weekend every year, running either in late October or early November. In addition, it competes for attention against college football and the World Series, which now lasts into November.

When it’s time to run, wow, it’s the industry bellwether, with the $6 million Classic doubling the purse of the Kentucky Derby.

In its sprawling splendor, the Breeders’ Cup also sends a message to high-level horse-racing bettors: You. Belong. Here.

Here’s a three-race appetizer featuring different parts of this betting feast.

Breeders’ Cup Classic field with post positions

Approximate post time: Saturday, 8:40 p.m. EST

This year’s classic is a $6 million affair, featuring three Kentucky Derby graduates — Medina Spirit, Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality — along with 2020 Breeders’ Cup one-mile winner Knicks Go. What a cast.

Additionally, last year, Knicks Go set a Keeneland Race Course record of 1:33.85, blowing away the field and looking invincible.

He looks that way again, with one problem. Knicks Go has never gone 1 1/4 miles. So what happens if Medina Spirit or Hot Rod Charlie press him early? Logically, that would set it up for Essential Quality to come late.

Will that happen? We don’t know, but that’s why they have the races.

Distance: 1 1/4 miles
Field with post positions:

Post PositionHorseTrainerJockeyMorning-Line Odds
1TripoliJohn SadlerIrad Ortiz Jr.15-1
2Express TrainJohn ShirreffsVictor Espinoza20-1
3Hot Rod CharlieDoug O'NeillFlavien Prat4-1
4Essential QualityBrad CoxLuis Saez3-1
5Knicks GoBrad CoxJoel Rosario5-2
6Art CollectorBill MottMike Smith8-1
7Stilleto BoyEd Moger Jr.Kent Desormeaux30-1
8Medina SpiritBob BaffertJohn Velazquez4-1
9Max PlayerSteve AsmussenRicardo Santana Jr.8-1

Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic assembles the best of European and American turf horses

Approximate post time: Saturday, 4:40 p.m. EST

There are compelling storylines in this race.

The filly Tarnawa beat the boys here last year. Can she do it again?

The Turf Classic is a wide-open field, symbolic of Breeders’ Cup excellence. The horses run 1 1/2 miles. They make majestic surges through the homestretch, overcoming huge deficits with a rallying force not seen on the dirt surface. They eat up huge chunks of ground, bolstered by rabid, screaming fans.

Domestic Spending and Rock Emperor sport those types of victories. Yibor, Teona, Walton Street and Gufo look like excellent candidates to hit the board.

These horses have run in Ireland, France, Great Britain and the United States. They have raced in numerous conditions.

And now, they meet here.

This is their pilgrimage.

Distance: 1 1/2 miles
Field with post positions:

Post PositionHorseTrainerJockeyMorning-Line Odds
1RockemperorChad BrownJavier Castellano15-1
2UnitedRichard MandellaJohn Velazquez20-1
3Domestic SpendingChad BrownFlavien Prat4-1
4AstronautJohn ShirreffsVictor Espinoza20-1
5TribhuvanChad BrownJose Ortiz20-1
6AcclimatePhilip D'AmatoRicardo Gonzalez20-1
7Walton StreetCharlie ApplebyJames Doyle8-1
8BroomeAidan O'BrienFrankie Dettori20-1
9SisfahanHenk GreweCristian Demuro12-1
10YibirCharlie ApplebyWilliam Buick12-1
11GufoChristophe ClementJoel Rosario8-1
12TeonaRoger VarianDavid Egan6-1
13TarnawaDermot WeldColin Keane9-5
14JapanAidan O'BrienRyan Moore20-1

The Juvenile features stars of tomorrow

Approximate post time: Friday, 7:50 p.m. EST

Why do bettors love the $2 million Juvenile? Timing. These are two-year-olds flying under the radar one last time before becoming three-year-old contenders in 2022.

Last year, Essential Quality was the winner of this race. The second-place finisher was a whopping 94-1 and teamed up for a $600 exacta. His name? Hot Rod Charlie.

Imagine getting Hot Rod Charlie at that price. These two horses ran 1-2 at the Belmont Stakes in June. They paid $15.

The message: This might be the last time a quality horse is on sale regarding betting odds.

Distance: 1 1/16 miles
Field with post positions:

Post PositionHorseTrainerJockeyMorning-Line Odds
1Jack ChristopherChad BrownJose Ortiz9-5
2Jasper GreatHideyuki MoriYuichi Fukunaga15-1
3Oviatt ClassKeith DesormeauxKent Desormeaux20-1
4PappacapMark CasseJoe Bravo15-1
5Double ThunderTodd PletcherFlavien Prat20-1
6American SanctuaryChris DavisFlorent Geroux30-1
7Giant GameDale RomansJoe Talamo30-1
8BarossaBob BaffertJuan Hernandez10-1
9PinehurstBob BaffertJohn Velazquez8-1
10CommandperformanceTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz Jr.5-1
11CornicheBob BaffertMike Smith5-2

The Juvenile will be a matchup of Corniche, who has done well in California, facing Jack Christopher, shipping from the East Coast. First, there’s the California edge angle supporting Corniche. Then there’s the inkling to put Corniche and Jack Christopher in trifecta boxes, hoping a long shot splits or beats them.

There are angles. These are the horses who may compete in the 2022 Classic.

All told, bettors obtain a glimpse of today’s top dirt performers, the elite entries on grass and the next group of top horses.

They are just three of the weekend’s races to keep an eye on.

Remaining Breeders’ Cup Races

Here’s the rest of the Saturday lineup, beginning at 3:05 p.m. EST:

  • The $2 million Distaff — 1 1/8 miles on the dirt
  • The $2 million Fan Duel mile — on turf
  • The $2 million sprint — 6 furlongs on dirt
  • The $2 million filly and mare turf — 1 3/8 miles
  • The $1 million Dirt Mile
  • The $1 million turf sprint — 5 furlongs
  • The  $1 million filly and mare sprint — 7 furlongs on dirt

Here are the four remaining races on Friday, starting at 5:50 p.m. EST

  • The $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint — 5 furlongs
  • The $2 Juvenile fillies — 1 1/16 miles on dirt
  • The $1 million turf — 1 mile
  • The $1 million Juvenile turf — 1 mile

Two days. Fourteen races worth a total of $31 million. The task of deciding which wagers matter.

For horse-racing gamblers, the challenge is a badge of honor.

Photo by AP | Gregory Bull
Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

View all posts by Dave Bontempo
Privacy Policy