Go west: Seven take on Knicks Go in Classic

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Knicks Go bids to lock up Horse of the Year honors and cap a near-perfect season against seven others in Saturday’s $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.

The Classic goes as the final race of the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which makes its second stop in the San Diego area after its first in 2017. Knicks Go is among the seven winners from last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, having won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to cap a 3-for-3 season. He’s joined by stablemate Essential Quality, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner who also runs in the Classic, Tarnawa (Turf), Audarya (Filly and Mare Turf), Gamine (Filly and Mare Sprint), Golden Pal (Juvenile Turf Sprint and Glass Slippers (Turf Sprint). Four of those five will run in the same races, with Golden Pal entered in the Turf Sprint.

The two-day Breeders’ Cup carries purses of more than $31 million and features 169 individual entries, including 16 also-eligibles.

The Classic, with a field of eight, is the richest of 14 Championship races worth more than $31 million in purses and awards to be run over the two days at Del Mar and will be televised live on NBC, NBCSN and TVG. The Classic will be broadcast live at 8:40 p.m. ET on NBC. 

Knicks Go and Essential Quality, the 5-2 favorite and 3-1 second choice, form a powerful 1-2 for trainer Brad Cox in the Classic.

Knicks Go comes into the Classic on a three-race win streak – the Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga and Grade 3 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs. The 5-year-old Maryland-bred son of Paynter is untested at the Classic’s 10-furlong trip, while Essential Quality owns wins in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes and 1 1/4-mile Travers heading into the final start of his career.

The co-third choice on the morning line for the Classic – Medina Spirit – is also proven at 10 furlongs after crossing the finish first in this year’s Kentucky Derby. The Florida-bred son of Protonico allegedly tested positive for a prohibited substance in the Derby before finishing third two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes. He comes in off back-to-back wins in California in the Shared Belief at Del Mar and Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita Park.

A pair of females – Letruska and Gamine – figure to be among the biggest favorites on the weekend. Letruska puts her five-race win streak on the line in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at 8-5 while Gamine goes in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint as the 3-5 early favorite. Other heavy favorites include Jackie’s Warrior, 6-5 in the $2 million Sprint and Life Is Good, 4-5 in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

The Breeders’ Cup kicks off with five championship races on the Future Stars Friday card, including the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Here’s the field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with jockeys and morning-line odds:

  1. Tripoli, Irad Ortiz Jr., 15-1;
  2. Express Train, Victor Espinoza, 20-1;
  3. Hot Rod Charlie, Flavien Prat, 4-1;
  4. Essential Quality, Luis Saez, 3-1;
  5. Knicks Go, Joel Rosario, 5-2;
  6. Art Collector, Mike Smith, 8-1;
  7. Stilleto Boy, Kent Desormeaux, 30-1;
  8. Medina Spirit, John Velazquez, 4-1;
  9. Max Player, Ricardo Santana Jr., 8-1.