Vulnerable favorites for the 2021 Breeders' Cup

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

October 21st, 2021

The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are rapidly approaching, with the two-day extravaganza of racing to be held at Del Mar on November 5 and 6. A bevy of world-class stars will converge on the Southern California venue for a sizzling weekend of action.

There are multiple deserving favorites that will go postward in the contests, but also some that could be vulnerable, as well. Below are four races that I will be attempting to upend the ones to beat in.

Distaff (G1)

I have a world of respect for the win-machine known as Letruska. The multiple Grade-1 winning champion has been on a tear in 2021, amassing six wins from seven starts while going up against the best in her division on every occasion. And I think that the Kentucky-bred should garner a lot of Horse of the Year votes if she were to take down the Distaff on November 6. But, she is no cinch to do so.

The Distaff is loaded, with all types of classy ladies set to go postward. And I expect Leteruska to face constant pressure from numerous contenders during the nine-furlong affair, as well. The Super Saver mare has yet to run on the Del Mar course, and settling on a short price on the fantastic five-year-old is not something that I want to do in this particular spot.

Sprint (G1)

The Steve Asmussen-trained Jackie’s Warrior could be among the shortest-priced favorites during Breeders’ Cup weekend, and deservedly so. He has been a model of excellence dating back to his juvenile campaign, and the son of Maclean’s Music is not showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. But, he faces a few obstacles in his toughest assignment to date.

For starters, the sophomore has yet to face his elders after dominating the three-year-old sprint division this season. He has displayed speed, heart, and tenacity in doing so. However, facing veterans poses a different kind of challenge.

Secondly, the fleet colt has done most of his work by going to the front and simply outrunning his foes to this point. In the Sprint, he will likely never get a breather. And lastly, there is no guarantee that he will thrive over the unique course at Del Mar. Resting on the brilliant colt as a single at a potentially odds-on number makes me nervous.

Dirt Mile (G1)

The once-beaten Life is Good was a dazzling debut winner at Del Mar as a juvenile and has been electric in each of his races since that performance. The Todd Pletcher pupil is lightly raced with room for additional improvement, and his impressive early speed makes him quite dangerous if the track is playing to his running style on November 6. But like Jackie's Warrior, the son of Into Mischief has yet to square off with a deep field of high-class sophomores and elders, and he will be facing some ultra-talented foes in this heat. At an expected short price, I think that the Kentucky-bred is worth trying to beat.

Juvenile (G1)

I don’t know who will be the first choice in a deep and well-matched field, but I know that it will not be my top pick, Commandperformance. And thus, I think whoever goes postward as the favorite will be vulnerable in the race. Commandperformance has received less than desirable trips in each of his pair of career tries to date but will get the right set up on November 5.

The Union Rags colt impressed when rallying to be second, seven lengths clear of his nearest foe, in the Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont Park last time out. And while he is still a maiden, I expect the gray to break through on the big stage at Del Mar. His profile is eerily similar to that of 2017 Juvenile winner Good Magic, who was second in the Champagne only to break his maiden in resounding fashion in the Breeders’ Cup. And that race was contested at Del Mar, too!