What to know about the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships

What to know Breeders' Cup 2021
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The horse racing world closes out an unusual year with the 38th edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar Racetrack, only on NBC, NBCSN, and NBCSports.com.

What is the Breeders’ Cup World Championships?

The Breeders’ Cup is horse racing’s last hurrah of the year. Horses from around the globe will compete in 14 races over two days, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic closing out the weekend.

The Breeders’ Cup originated in 1984 as a year-end championship for North American Thoroughbred horses and their breeders. The brainchild of the late John Gaines, the former owner of Gainesway Farm, the Breeders’ Cup was built by Thoroughbred breeders, for Thoroughbred breeders.

In 2007, the Breeders’ Cup was expanded from one day to two. Now, the first day of the weekend is called Future Stars Friday, with many of racing’s most promising colts and fillies running on both the dirt and the turf. Championship Saturday will give out more than $22 million in purse money over nine races, including the $6 million Classic.

Related: How to watch every single Breeders’ Cup race

When and where is the 2021 Breeders’ Cup?

The Breeders’ Cup runs from November 5-6. Friday’s coverage goes from 5 to 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and Saturday’s coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before jumping to NBC from 8 to 9 p.m. ET. Post time for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is set for 8:40 p.m.

The Breeders’ Cup changes tracks every year, with Del Mar Racetrack hosting for the second time. Del Mar, Calif. is has one of the most beautiful tracks in the country just a couple of feet from the beach.

How to watch Breeders’ Cup: 

NBC Sports is home to the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app before, during and after. Coverage kicks off with Future Stars Friday on November 5, from 5-9 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. NBC Sports will resume coverage the following day on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app beginning at 2:30 p.m., with the broadcast jumping to NBC from 8-9 p.m.

How are horses picked for the Breeders’ Cup? 

Horses must be nominated to race in any Breeders’ Cup event. Stallions at stud who are nominated then pass that nomination down to their foals, meaning any offspring of a nominated stallion is eligible to run in a Breeders’ Cup race. Each year, the stallion’s nomination costs as much as his advertised breeding fee and will cover up to the first 50 foals the stallion produces that year before the fee goes up. Foals can also be nominated individually at $400 each, and stallions standing abroad are also eligible. These funds contribute to the Breeders’ Cup purses and go back into the host track.

However, just because a horse is nominated doesn’t mean they’ll run in the Breeders’ Cup.

The “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is a series of Breeders’ Cup qualifying races that gives the winner an automatic entry into the relevant Breeders’ Cup race (with entry fees paid).

Horses who didn’t get in through a Challenge Series race accumulate points throughout the season by finishing graded races in the money, and the horses with the most points at the end of the season will fill the remaining spots.

What is the Breeders’ Cup Classic? 

The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is the marquee event of the weekend. At 1 1/4 miles long, the Classic has a field of up to 14 horses that must be at least 3 years old. Breeders’ Cup Classic winners have a history of going on to win Horse of the Year, including Authentic (2020), Curlin (2007) and Cigar (1995).

The last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Del Mar, Steve Asmussen-owned Gun Runner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic by 2 1/4 lengths. He went on to win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Who are the horses to watch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

A field of 10 is set for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit made the field under controversial circumstances. Despite being banned in New York and Kentucky after Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance at the Kentucky Derby, Baffert is able to enter his horse in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Saturday, Nov. 6. Extra security measures have been taken, including chest cameras to assure that there is no controversy. Post time for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is set for approximately 8:40 p.m. ET.

While Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win is in doubt, he is still an incredibly talented colt. In his last race, the G1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita on October 2, he won by a dominating five lengths wire-to-wire. Another dominant but controversial entry will be Essential Quality.

Essential Quality comes into the Breeder Cup Classic with eight wins in nine starts. His only loss came in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished fourth behind Medina Spirit. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, human rights lawyers filed a formal complaint to the Kentucky Horse Race Commission to ban him and his owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, from participating due to a UK family court finding that Sheikh Mohammed arranged the kidnapping of his adult daughters on three separate occasions, forcibly returning them to Dubai after they attempted to flee abroad.

Brad Cox, who trains Essential Quality, has another horse in the field: Knicks Go. He’s expected to set the pace early, but he’s never raced more than 1 1/4 miles. The always exciting Hot Rod Charlie will also be in the field and looking to avenge narrow losses to Medina Spirit and Essential Quality at the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, respectively. Idol was supposed to run, but was pulled by trainer Richard Baltas, who didn’t feel comfortable running him after coming up “tight behind” cooling out.

Watch NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup starting with Future Stars Friday on Nov. 5 from 5-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and continuing with Championship Saturday on Nov. 6 from 2:30-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN until 8, NBC from 8-9).

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Bob Baffert wins record 16th Del Mar Futurity with Cave Rock

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Cave Rock won the $302,000 Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record 16th victory in the Grade 1 race in which he finished 1-2.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock ran seven furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1:20.99 on closing day at the seaside track north of San Diego. He lowered the old mark of 1:21.29 set by Declan’s Moon in 2004.

Baffert tied Phil D’Amato for the trainers’ title with 19 wins each at the 31-day summer meet. It was Baffert’s eighth title at Del Mar, but his first since 2003.

Hernandez won the jockeys’ title.

Havnameltdown, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the race for 2-year-olds. Skinner was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Longtime Baffert clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman own the first and second-place finishers.

Cave Rock paid $2.80 to win as the 2/5 favorite. He earned $180,000 for the win.