2021 breeders' cup

Dick Jerardi

The Parx Breeders’ Cup winning streak will end at three, but the wins by Jaywalk, Spun to Run and Vequist will live on.

Unless there are multiple late scratches in the Turf Sprint, no Parx-based horses will be in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar this weekend. Turf Monster winner Hollywood Talent (who could forget 108-1?) was entered, but was so far down the list of also eligibles, there was essentially no way the horse was going to get to run.

It was a bit surprising that Parx Dash winner The Critical Way was also left out of the main Turf Sprint body. The wonderful Pennsylvania bred filly Caravel did make the race and is not without a chance. Neither is based at Parx, but racing at the track counts for something.

Even without a “Parx’’ horse, there will be no shortage of Parx storylines, all emerging from that wonderful Pennsylvania Derby Day on Sept. 25.

Pennsylvania Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie is a major contender in the $6 million Classic, the race of the year with Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, Whitney winner Knicks Go, Woodward winner Art Collector, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Max Player and Pacific Classic winner Tripoli.

Cotillion winner Clairiere has been working brilliantly in California for her start in the $2 million Distaff. She will be facing a powerhouse field, including Spinster winner Letruska (17 for 22 lifetime), Alabama winner Malathaat and La Troienne winner Shedaresthedevil.

Gallant Bob winner Jackie’s Warrior, nearly perfect in one-turn races, will be a heavy favorite in the Sprint. He will be taken on by, among others, Bing Crosby winner Dr. Schivel, 14-time winner Firenze Fire and Vanderbilt winner Lexitonian.

Life is Good will be a huge favorite in the Dirt Mile and maybe the most likely winner in any of the 14 races over the two days. The Parx Dirt Mile 1-2, Mind Control, and Silver State, originally were both set to run. Mind Control, however, spiked a temperature and was not entered. Silver State likely will be the second choice.

The Turf features defending champion Tarnawa, most recently a hard-luck second in the Arc de Triomphe. In addition to Tarnawa, there are six other horses running Saturday after winning a 2020 BC race – Essential Quality, Knicks Go, Glass Slippers and Golden Pal ( both Turf Sprint), Gamine (Filly & Mare Sprint), and Audarya (Filly & Mare Turf).

I am most looking forward to the Classic which will be on NBC in primetime Saturday night. The nine horses entered have won a combined $19,102,919 and 11 Grade I races. Essential Quality and Knicks Go, stablemates from the Brad Cox barn, enter as co-favorites for Horse of the Year and likely will be 1-2 in the betting.

Essential Quality’s only loss was a very close fourth in the Derby. The 3-year-old has won the Breeders’ Futurity, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Southwest, Blue Grass, Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy, and Travers. His style is adaptable to any situation. Slow pace, he’s close. Fast pace, he’s midpack.

Since being transferred to the Cox barn last year, Knicks Go has been in seven two-turn races and won them all by open lengths. He just goes to the front and none of the other horses can keep up. The colt has won the BC Dirt Mile, the Pegasus World Cup, the Cornhusker, Whitney, and Lukas Classic.

The first 100 yards of the Classic will be critical. Medina Spirit is really fast. Fast enough to make Knicks Go have to run too fast too soon? That will be the key to the race.

If Knicks Go clears the field again, I see him as being very difficult to catch. If it’s a fast contested pace, Knicks Go becomes vulnerable and the race could set up the late run of Essential Quality or the potentially perfect trip-off-the-speed Hot Rod Charlie.

However it plays out, the Classic will be the perfect finale of two great days of racing (the 2-year-olds take center stage Friday). The Breeders’ Cup was conceived 40 years ago by John Gaines. It was a brilliant idea that has stood the test of time and is a perfect final examination for the horses that are so talented and horseplayers that are so dedicated.

Can’t wait to see what happens.

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