Breeders' Cup Roundup: June 14, 2021

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June 14th, 2021

Let the countdown to the Breeders’ Cup begin!

The 2021 Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar. The 14-race extravaganza will award $28 million in purse money, making it one of the richest and most prestigious events in all of horse racing.

Less than five months remain until North America’s best racehorses square off against elite challengers from around the world in a year-end championship you don’t want to miss.

To kick off our weekly series of Breeders’ Cup Roundups, let’s catch up on the latest Breeders’ Cup news and notes:

Breeders’ Cup Classic

The Triple Crown is complete, which means the first half of the racing season is in the books. In many years, there’s a clear early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) by this point in time—think American Pharoah in 2015, California Chrome in 2016, and Arrogate in 2017. The fact two of those three were beaten in the Classic is secondary to the fact they were division standouts by the middle of the year.

But 2021 paints a much more wide-open picture. The three-year-olds appear to be a talented group, with Belmont S. (G1) winner Essential Quality the most accomplished of the lot. But Belmont runner-up Hot Rod Charlie appears to be on nearly even terms, with Preakness S. (G1) hero Rombauer and graded stakes winners Medina Spirit and Mandaloun all capable of making noise during the summer and fall.

Among older males, the story is much the same. Mystic Guide has to be considered a tentative leader off his decisive triumph in the Dubai World Cup (G1), but his authority over the division is slim. Happy Saver defeated Mystic Guide in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last fall and recently returned to action with an allowance win at Belmont; they’re on track to meet again in the July 3 Suburban S. (G2) at Belmont, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Classic.

California stars Country Grammer and Royal Ship are other names to know. Royal Ship narrowly edged Country Grammer in the Californian S. (G2), but Country Grammer turned the tables by a head in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1).

Throw in the once-beaten Alysheba S. (G2) winner Maxfield, the stretch-running Santa Anita H. (G1) hero Idol, and the undefeated sophomore Life Is Good, and the road to the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic looks like one of the most intriguing in recent memory.

International Watch

The best racing this week will take place at Royal Ascot in England. The prestigious five-day meet is packed from start to finish with important group stakes races, and many of Europe’s best horses will be in action.

Royal Ascot kicks off on Tuesday with the Queen Anne S. (G1), in which reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Order of Australia will make his four-year-old debut. But the Aidan O’Brien trainee isn’t favored in the early betting—instead, handicappers are flocking to support Palace Pier, who posted a comfortable victory in the Lockinge S. (G1) last month. Winner of the St James’s Palace S. (G1) at Royal Ascot last season, the once-beaten four-year-old increasingly looks like a superstar.

Another important event on the agenda is the Prince of Wales’s S. (G1), in which Love will make her highly anticipated four-year-old debut. A spectacular winner of the Epsom Oaks (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) last season, the daughter of Galileo was considered for a start in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), but ultimately skipped the race in favor of resting up for a four-year-old campaign.

But victory at Royal Ascot isn’t guaranteed for Love. The 1 1/4-mile trip is arguably shorter than her best, and she might be rusty off the layoff. Defending Prince of Wales’s winner Lord North (fourth in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Turf) is a popular choice in the betting, while Love’s up-and-coming stablemate Armory is another live contender based off his dominant win in the Huxley S. (G2) last month.

American trainer Wesley Ward will have a strong presence as usual at Royal Ascot. His promising two-year-olds Kaufymaker, Twilight Gleaming, Golden Bell, Ruthin, Lucci, Nakatomi, and Golden Bell have been well-supported in the betting for various juvenile stakes. But Ward also has Bound for Nowhere aiming for the Diamond Jubilee S. (G1), Maven slated for the King’s Stand S. (G1), and Campanelle spotted for a showdown with males in the Commonwealth Cup (G1). Campanelle has already tasted victory once at Royal Ascot, nabbing the Queen Mary S. (G2) last summer.

“Win and You’re In” Qualifiers

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is picking up steam as the second half of the racing season heats up. Four upcoming races at Royal Ascot will award “Win and You’re In” berths to a variety of Breeders’ Cup events.

In chronological order, they are:

  • Tuesday’s Queen Anne S. (G1), which awards the winner a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
  • Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s S. (G1), a prominent steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
  • Thursday’s Norfolk S. (G2) for two-year-olds, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2).
  • Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee S. (G1), an early prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series will return to North America on June 26, when Churchill Downs hosts the Stephen Foster S. (G2) and Fleur de Lis S. (G2). The two 1 1/8-mile events award qualifying berths to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), respectively.