2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Picks, Expert Predictions and Odds: Nod Goes to Essential Quality

By US Racing Team

Essential Quality at the Jim Dandy Stakes – Photo Courtesy of Joe Labozzetta

Essential Quality has been nearly perfect in nine races, his only loss coming in a 19-horse field in the Kentucky Derby (G1) forced him into a wide trip.

And so, after asking our usracing.com contributors to pick their 1-2-3 finishers for Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, the nod goes to the striking gray son of Tapit to win again in a field of nine going 1 ¼ miles.

Essential Quality, winner of the Belmont Stakes (G1) and the Travers (G1), was picked to win by four of our eight selectors and 5-2 favorite Knicks Go was picked by two selectors.

Here’s the winning picks breakdown: Essential Quality (4); Knicks Go (2); Hot Rod Charlie (1), and Medina Spirit (1).

The picks, with comments:


1 Essential Quality 2 Hot Rod Charlie 3 Medina Spirit

“Luis Saez bides his time with Essential Quality, who saves ground while Medina Spirit puts heat on pace-setter Knicks Go, with Hot Rod Charlie in third. Knicks Go fades in mid-stretch. Hot Rod Charlie briefly takes the lead from Medina Spirit before Essential Quality goes past in a rerun of the Belmont Stakes stretch duel.” – Ed McNamara


1 Hot Rod Charlie 2 Art Collector 3 Essential Quality

“Hot Rod Charlie had nothing but bad luck before his decisive win in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) last out. His ability to rate off the expected early pace, coupled with talent and figures, makes him dangerous for the win.” – Margaret Ransom


Hot Rod Charlie at the Pennsylvania Derby – Photo Courtesy of Chad B. Harmon

1 Essential Quality 2 Hot Rod Charlie 3 Medina Spirit

“The 3-year-olds take center stage and Essential Quality has been best of the crop most of the year. He can sit off Medina Spirit and Max Player and work out a good trip.” – Noel Michaels

1 Medina Spirit 2 Essential Quality 3 Hot Rod Charlie

He won the Kentucky Derby, beat Essential Quality and is trained by Bob Baffert, who usually has his Classic runners ready for a big effort.” – Richard Rosenblatt

1 Essential Quality 2 Art Collector 3 Knicks Go

“Expect a hotly contested early pace where the Belmont Stakes winner prevails over fellow late runner Art Collector. Knicks Go will be tested hard here.” – Ray Wallin


1 Knicks Go 2 Essential Quality 3 Hot Rod Charlie

“He’s a veteran with 23 career starts, including four wins in six starts this year. Love the fact that he raced and won on Oct. 2” – John Furgele

Knicks Go at the Whitney Stakes -Photo Courtesy of Dom Napolitano

1 Essential Quality 2 Knicks Go 3 Art Collector

“Going with the best of the bunch over the last two years, and Essential Quality checks all the boxes. He will find a way to win.” – Jenny Kellner

1 Knicks Go 2 Medina Spirit 3 Essential Quality

“Based on past performance, Knicks Go will keep on going into the winner’s circle.” – Charlie Garth