Breeders' Cup: Mucciolo's contender rankings for 2021

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October 18th, 2021

The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are rapidly approaching, with less than three weeks remaining until the grand spectacle of racing occurs. Del Mar will play host to the bonanza weekend of action, which will be held on Friday, Nov. 5, and Saturday, Nov. 6. For this piece, I have focused on the major events on the main surface that will take place on Saturday, tabbing my top five in each of those categories.

Here are my top contenders in the dirt races for Breeders’ Cup Saturday:


  1. ESSENTIAL QUALITY -- Travers (G1) victory may have been his best yet
  2. MAXFIELD -- Woodward (G1) prep sets him up for a big showing for Godolphin
  3. KNICKS GO -- Fleet gray will try to run them off their feet
  4. HOT ROD CHARLIE -- O’Neill charge belongs if he can avoid trouble
  5. TRIPOLI -- Affinity for Del Mar makes him interesting at a price


  1. LETRUSKA -- Powerful mare could earn a fifth Grade 1 trophy of 2021
  2. ROYAL FLAG -- Sleeper is getting very good at the right time for Brown
  3. MALATHAAT -- Likely three-year-old filly champion will be a contender with her best
  4. SHEDARESTHEDEVIL -- Hirsch (G1) romp on the surface adds to her appeal
  5. PRIVATE MISSION -- Late developer is unbeaten going a route of ground

Dirt Mile

  1. GINOBILI -- Blinkers + Del Mar success make him the one to beat in my opinion
  2. LIFE IS GOOD -- Once-beaten sophomore dazzles on his best day
  3. SILVER STATE -- Met Mile (G1) star will appreciate a pace duel at Del Mar
  4. MIND CONTROL -- Pletcher has Grade 1 star in prime form
  5. EXPRESS TRAIN -- San Diego (G2) winner would be dangerous if he lands here


  1. JACKIE’S WARRIOR -- Asmussen sensation is the one to beat
  2. FOLLOWING SEA -- Vosburgh (G2) victor has room for improvement
  3. DR. SCHIVEL -- Course specialist is the top sprinter in California
  4. SPECIAL RESERVE -- Savvy claim is in peak condition for Maker
  5. C Z ROCKET -- Loves the course and never runs a bad one

Filly and Mare Sprint

  1. GAMINE -- Superstar has decimated her competition in all four tries in 2021
  2. BELL’S THE ONE -- Grade 1 heroine is the most consistent closer in the division
  3. BELLA SOFIA -- Standout sophomore is currently on a roll
  4. CE CE -- McCarthy pupil has found her niche and is a threat to win the race
  5. CLUB CAR -- Addition of blinkers seemed to aid the hard-trying mare last time

Photos by Coady Photography, Hodges Photography, Coglianese Photos, Benoit Photography