Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Essential Quality, a favorite in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Photo credit: @DelMarRacing, via Twitter

The 38th Breeders’ Cup World Championship races open Friday in Del Mar, leading up to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Knicks Go and Essential Quality are favored.

The Classic, a 1 ¼-mile distance with a field of nine, is among 14 races – worth more than $31 million in purses and awards – to be run through Saturday.

Races – five on Friday and nine on Saturday – will be televised on NBC, NBCSN and TVG. The Classic airs live at 5:40 p.m. PST Saturday on NBC. 

Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go and Godolphin’s Essential Quality, both trained by Brad Cox, opened on the morning line at 5-2 and 3-1 respectively.

Five championship races will be run on Future Stars Friday, with all Breeders’ Cup tests that day being for 2-year-olds.

Friday highlights include the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, races that determine early favorites for the Kentucky Derby and Longines Kentucky Oaks. 

The 169 horses entered include 16 also-eligibles.

Among them are seven winners from last year’s Championships at Keeneland: Knicks Go, Essential Quality, Tarnawa, Audarya, Gamine, Golden Pal and Glass Slippers.

The second richest race of the championships, the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, is headed by Tarnawa. It drew a full gate of 14 and two also-eligibles.

One of the heaviest morning-line favorites is St. George Stable’s Letruska at 8-5 for the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff in which she heads a field of 11 fillies and mares.

Mrs. A.M. Swinburn’s Audarya competes a field of 12 in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, a 1 3/8-mile race over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

Among Saturday’s heaviest morning-line favorites, in the $2 million Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint, going 6 furlongs, Jackie’s Warrior, and the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, going 7 furlongs, Gamine.

Tickets remain, but are limited mostly to Friday. Clubhouse general admission tickets start at $100. Trackside general admission and most reserved seating is sold out.

In addition to the races, the Del Mar Village Association is hosting several events to celebrate the Breeders’ Cup, including viewing parties, special happy hours and live music at Del Mar Plaza.

Del Mar hosted the Breeders’ Cup for the first time in 2017.