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Breeders’ Cup Classic


Knicks Go at The Lucas Classic (Coady Photography)
Compiled By Nancy Brannon

This year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic offered some familiar horses in the start gate for Saturday’s November 6, 2021 race at Del Mar Race Track in California. Here are the entries by their post position:

1. Tripoli with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., trained by John W. Sadler
2. Empress Train with jockey Victor Espinoza, trained by John A. Shirreffs
3. Hot Rod Charlie with jockey Flavien Prat, trained by Doug F. O’Neill
4. Essential Quality with jockey Luis Saez, trained by Brad H. Cox
5. Knicks Go with jockey Joel Rosario, trained by Brad H. Cox
6. Art Collector with jockey Mike Smith, trained by William I. Mott
7. Stilleto Boy with jockey Kent Desormeaux, trained by Ed Moger, Jr.
8. Medina Spirit with jockey John Velazquez, trained by Bob Baffert
9. Max Player with jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., trained by Steven M. Asmussen
The Race
“They’re off!” shouts the announcer as the starting gates spring open. Knicks Go went out to the early lead and through the opening quarter mile, led the pack by ¾ length with Art Collector and Hot Rod Charlie in second and third respectively. Medina Spirit caught up to third position, moving Hot Rod Charlie to fourth. Knicks Go led them to the back stretch moving to 2½ lengths ahead. He continued to lead the pack by 2 lengths on the far turn with Art Collector still in second and Hot Rod Charlie reclaiming third position. Knicks Go went wide for the stretch drive with Hot Rod Charlie coming in second on the inside and Medina Spirit making his move. In the final furlong, Knicks Go increased his lead to win by three lengths. “Knicks Go, a superstar, wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic!” exclaimed the announcer. “Medina Spirit was second; Essential Quality was third, and Hot Rod Charlie was fourth. …Knicks Go was just clearly the best.”

Winning jockey Joel Rosario, with his 15th Breeders’ Cup win, was interviewed on horseback by Donna Brothers. “He’s really fast. He just likes to run. He’s like ‘come on, chase me.’ It’s seemed like it was really easy for him. I had my head down; he was doing the work. I had nobody around and I just let him do his race. He’s amazing. He just goes faster and faster.” Rosario was grateful for the opportunity to ride this horse in this race and to all the people who support him.

For trainer Brad Cox, it was a tough race to watch, as he is trainer for both Knicks Go and Essential Quality.  He described Knicks Go as “a tremendous horse, a champion now, and I’m just very proud of the performance today. …As they’re coming down the lane I wanted Essential to get there, and he had a third place so I’m very proud of him. It was odd to watch; these are like your kids. When they face each other, it’s tough to watch,” he commented.

Official race results:
1. Knicks Go
2. Medina Spirit
3. Essential Quality
4. Hot Rod Charlie
5. Stilleto Boy
6. Art Collector
7. Tripoli
8. Max Player

Taylor Made Stallions announced on Nov. 10 that Knicks Go will stand the upcoming breeding season for $30,000 with a ‘stands and nurses’ guarantee, Bloodhorse reported.
Banned Baffert Participated in Breeders’ Cup

Racing fans may question Bob Baffert’s participation in this prestigious race. After a review and board vote, the Breeders’ Cup made the announcement on October 17, 2021 that it would allow Bob Baffert to enter and run horses at this year’s races, but with enhanced testing and protocols.

The Breeders’ Cup statement specified, in part:

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, Breeders’ Cup has decided to require all horses trained by Mr. Baffert to undergo enhanced out-of-competition, pre- and post-race testing and other security protocols, at his own expense, in order to participate in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that “Baffert has been under fire from two racing organizations since Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a medication that can be dispensed, but not on race day, after winning the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to hold a hearing on Baffert, but Churchill Downs, home of the Derby, has suspended him for two years.”

Joe Drape of The New York Times wondered how suspended Baffert is allowed to run eight horses on Friday and Saturday (November 5, 6) in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California. “The trainer has friends in high places: on the Breeders’ Cup board, to be precise,” Drape answered his own question. “Baffert will saddle horses for six of those board members at Del Mar. Six more either own horses in Baffert’s stable or stand stallions that he once trained.”

Drape wondered if any of the board members with financial ties to Baffert – all but two of the 14 – recused themselves from the review and vote. Drape writes, “Drew Fleming, the Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive declined to answer detailed questions from The New York Times, as did individual board members.”

Following is a link to the Board of Directors of the Breeders’ Cup, with their interests specified:

While Baffert is a member of the sport’s Hall of Fame and is seventh in the national training standings, Drape wrote, “he trained horses that have failed 30 drug tests – including five in a 13-month span, Medina Spirit among them.”

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which calls for a board overseen by the Federal Trade commission to write rules and penalties to be enforced by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, doesn’t take effect until next summer (2022).
Find more information about the Breeders’ Cup races at:
Breeders Cup contenders.
Cherwa, John. 2021. “Bob Baffert’s horses allowed to run at Breeders’ Cup under heightened protocols.” Los Angeles Times. Oct. 17.
Paulick Report Staff. 2021. “With Conditions, Baffert Cleared to Participate in 2021 Breeders’ Cup.” Paulick Report. Oct. 17.
Drape, Joe. 2021. “Baffert, Barred From Churchill Downs, Is Embraced by the Breeders’ Cup.” The New York Times. Nov. 4.
Mitchell, Eric. 2021. “Knicks Go to Enter Stud at $30,000. Bloodhorse. Nov. 10.

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