Knicks Go is early 5-2 favorite for Breeders’ Cup Classic

US and World Sports

FILE – Essential Quality (2), Luis Saez up, crosses the finish line ahead of Hot Rod Charlie (4), Flavien Prat up, to win the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 5, 2021, at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Medina Spirit, controversial winner of the Kentucky Derby, and Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality head a field of 10 horses for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with trainer Brad Cox pre-entering two horses for the $6 million race that includes Hot Rod Charlie. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

Knicks Go is the early 5-2 favorite for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic this weekend at Del Mar.

The two-day world championships drew 169 horses from eight countries, including 46 foreign horses to the seaside track north of San Diego. Del Mar is hosting for the second time in four years.

The Classic will be shown in prime time Saturday on NBC.

Knicks Go drew the No. 5 post on Monday in the nine-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile Classic. Trained by Brad Cox, he’ll be ridden by Joel Rosario. The colt has four wins in six starts this year, and won the BC Dirt Mile last year at Keeneland.

Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality is the 3-1 second choice, also from Cox’s barn. The colt is owned by Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Medina Spirit, controversial winner of the Kentucky Derby, is the co-third choice at 4-1 for embattled trainer Bob Baffert. The colt tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which isn’t allowed in Kentucky on race day. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to issue a final decision as part of its investigation into the matter.

Also at 4-1 is Hot Rod Charlie, winner of the Pennsylvania Derby. The colt finished third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont. Nicknamed “Chuck,” he will break from post No. 3.

“We couldn’t have planned it any better, to have it in our own backyard is special,” said Bill Strauss, a co-owner of Hot Rod Charlie who lives in Del Mar.

Others in the Classic field, with odds, are: Tripoli, 15-1; Express Train, 20-1; Art Collector, 8-1; Stilleto Boy, 30-1; and Max Player, 8-1.

Friday’s five-race card features all 2-year-olds, with the winner of the $2 million Juvenile typically tabbed as the winter-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

The early Juvenile favorite is 9-5 shot Jack Christopher, trained by New York-based Chad Brown.

Baffert has Juvenile three entries: Corniche at 5-2, Pinehurst at 8-1 and Barossa at 10-1. However, Churchill Downs has suspended him for two years, which includes the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies.

He was allowed to enter horses in the Breeders’ Cup, but the event’s all-time money-leading trainer has to meet certain conditions, including stricter out-of-competition testing of his horses and greater security at his barn. Baffert agreed to the tougher rules. The Hall of Fame trainer has had five failed drug tests dating to May 2, 2020.

Other favorites in Friday’s races:

— Averly Jane at 5-2 in the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint.

— Echo Zulu at 4-5 in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies.

— Pizza Bianca, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, at 5-1 in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf.

— Ireland-bred Dubawi Legend in the $1 million Juvenile Turf.

Saturday’s card features nine races with results figuring into year-end honors for Eclipse Awards.

The $4 million Turf is led by defending champion Tarnawa, the 9-5 favorite bred in Ireland and trained by Dermot Weld.

Letruska tops the 11-horse field for the $2 million Distaff. The 8-5 favorite is trainer Fausto Gutierrez’s first Breeders’ Cup entry. She has won six of seven starts, including four Grade 1 races, this year.

“If she runs like she normally does, we have a big chance,” said Gutierrez, who trains for Mexican billionaire German Larrea Mota-Velasco’s St. George Stable.

Ireland-bred Space Blues is the 3-1 favorite for the $2 million Mile.

Other favorites in Saturday’s races:

— Gamine, the defending champion trained by Baffert, at 3-5 in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.

— Golden Pal at 7-2 in the $1 million Turf Sprint.

— Life Is Good at 4-5 in the $1 million Dirt Mile is one of two entries in the race trained by Todd Pletcher.

— War Like Goddess at 7-2 in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf.

— Jackie’s Warrior at 6-5 in the $2 million Sprint.

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