Seven returning Breeders’ Cup champions, including Breeders’ Cup Classic favorites Knicks Go and Essential Quality, lead the pre-entry field for next weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar.

Breeders' Cup 2021 Pre Entries
Del Mar plays host to the Breeders Cup World Championships for the second time next weekend. Nearly 200 horses are on the pre-entry lists for the 14 races. (Image: Breeders Cup)

The 14-race festival begins on Friday, Nov. 5 with five juvenile races before segueing into nine races on Saturday, Nov. 6. The 196 horses will race for a combined $31 million in purses, culminating with the $6 million Classic on Saturday at 5:40 p.m. PT.

The record 56 international shippers make up for the fact there are five fewer entries than last year, and 25 fewer than in 2018. Seven past champions are returning, however, including Knicks Go (Dirt Mile), Essential Quality (Juvenile), Tarnawa (Turf), Gamine (Filly and Mare Sprint), Audarya (Filly & Mare Turf), Glass Slippers (Turf Sprint), and Golden Pal (Juvenile Turf).

Until Wednesday, that list of past champions also included Order of Australia, who sprung a 73/1 upset to win last year’s Mile. He suffered a career-ending injury during a morning training session and was promptly retired.

Of the 196 entrants, 46 earned spots through various Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races.

Barn bragging rights between Knicks Go and Essential Quality

Knicks Go and Essential Quality head that $6 million Classic field. The two Brad Cox-trained stablemates own a combined eight Grade 1 wins and a combined 9-for-12 record in 2021. They’ve combined for more than $7 million in 2021 earnings in those 12 races. Joining them in the 10-horse field are Art Collector, Express Train, Hot Rod Charlie, Idol, Max Player, Medina Spirit, Stilleto Boy, and Tripoli.

Tarnawa returns in the $4 million Turf, which expects a full 14-horse field. Joining the mare are the likes of Domestic Spending, Gufo, Imperador, Love, and United. That field is so loaded that Grade/Group 1 winners such as Japan, Tribhuvan, Mogul, Channel Maker (the reigning Eclipse Award-winning Male Turf Horse), and Bolshoi Ballet can’t get in without scratches.

With possible Horse of the Year stakes riding on her saddle, Letruska looms over what seems to be an overmatched $2 million Distaff field. Malathaat, Shedaresthedevil, and perhaps, Private Mission figure to be her competition.

The $2 million Mile features contenders such as Raging Bull, Smooth Like Strait, Mo Forza, filly Got Stormy, and Irish invader Space Blues.

Jackie’s Warrior on the Breeders’ Cup Sprint path

In the $2 million Sprint, it’s Jackie’s Warrior and everyone else. That everyone else isn’t exactly roadkill, including – among others — Firenze Fire in his final race, Dr. Schivel, 34/1 Vanderbilt winner Lexitonian, Flagstaff, and Following Sea.

War Like Goddess and her 6-for-7 record loom large against an armada of foreign shippers in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf. Defending champion Audarya, Going to Vegas, and Pocket Square figure to push her.

Life Is Good is certainly a good pick in the $1 million Dirt Mile, where Silver State, Mind Control, and Ginobli await.

Golden Pal, who won his last four starts on US tracks, looks to add the $1 million Turf Sprint to last year’s Juvenile Turf Sprint title. An eclectic field that includes defending champion Glass Slippers, Lieutenant Dan, Kimari, and Charmaine’s Mia stand in his way.

Not many want anything to do with Gamine

There’s not much standing in Gamine’s formidable way in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint. The defending champion scared away most of her competition in what is the smallest Breeders’ Cup field. Ce Ce and Bella Sofia figure to run for second in a seven-horse field that includes the aptly named Truth Hurts.

The always-watched $2 million Juvenile figures to be a duel between Chad Brown’s Jack Christopher and Bob Baffert’s Corniche. The winner draws instant futures favorite status for the 2022 Kentucky Derby and, likely, an Eclipse Award as 2-Year-Old Horse of the Year. Baffert also sends out Pinehurst, with Mark Casse saddling Pappacap and Kenny McPeek’s Breeders’ Futurity winner Rattle N Roll.

No such duel awaits in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies. Not with 3-for-3 Echo Zulu coming in off two Grade 1 wins and three Beyer Speed Figures in the 90s. Trying to beat her are Hidden Connection, Desert Dawn, and the perfectly named Ain’t Easy.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf comes with an Angel

Charlie Appleby brings the two top contenders in the $1 million Juvenile Turf with Modern Games and Albahr, who brings in a four-race win streak. Doug O’Neill’s Mackinnon and Mark Casse’s Grafton Street await.

Brown’s Consumer Spending is the top US choice in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf. Keep your eyes on Diamond Wow and the Cinderella story that is California Angel who got in by winning the last “Win and You’re In” event at Keeneland, the Grade 2 Jessamine.

Wesley Ward charged Averly Jane with winning his third consecutive Juvenile Turf Sprint. The 4-for-4 filly faces a flotilla of invaders, with six Irish-bred shippers coming into the $1 million race.

The post-position draw for all 14 races is Monday at 2:30 p.m. PT from Del Mar. will stream the draw as TVG televises it.