Q&A: NBC Sports' Nick Luck Shares His Thoughts on the Breeders' Cup

Racing
Nick Luck, shown with Britney Eurton at the Nov. 1 post-position draw for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, is part of NBC Sports’ award-winning broadcast team that will be televising the World Championships. (Eclipse Sportswire)

NBC Sports will provide extensive coverage of the 38th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which are being held at magnificent Del Mar for only the second time in their history.

NBCSN will broadcast all five Breeders’ Cup races that comprise Future Stars Friday from 5-9 p.m. ET. That day culminates in the $2 million TVG Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which typically stamps the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve the following May.

The action continues on NBCSN from 2:30-8 p.m. ET on Saturday with eight more championship contests. The Breeders’ Cup then gains center stage for a special one-hour broadcast on NBC of the $6 million Longines Classic, which should go a long way toward determining Horse of the Year. Every race except the Classic also may be seen on TVG.

The Breeders’ Cup, first held at Del Mar in 2017, attracted a record number of international pre-entries. The NBC Sports broadcast will have an international flair thanks to the presence of veteran commentator Nick Luck, equestrian commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Luck offed a comprehensive overview of the talent-laden Breeders’ Cup during a question-and-answer session conducted by Tom Pedulla on behalf of America’s Best Racing:


PEDULLA: How significant is it that this Breeders’ Cup has a record number of international pre-entries?

LUCK: Even though the very best horses in Europe are not able to make it to the Breeders’ Cup for one reason or another, the huge number of international entries speaks volumes for the appetite for international participation. If you look a little deeper, you will find connections who have never been to a Breeders’ Cup before and are embracing it wholeheartedly. On top of that, there are a record number of pre-entries from Japan. I think it is one of the most significant developments in Breeders’ Cup history. 

PEDULLA: This is the second time Del Mar has been used as a venue. What is your opinion of Del Mar as a venue?

LUCK: Different and pretty special. When Keeneland joined the fray in 2015 and Del Mar in 2017, I think it gave the event its identity again. I think its identity is largely dependent on moving around, on showcasing different venues around the United States. There might be some European horses who would not be here if it was not at Del Mar. It’s got character and I think it is a fantastic location.

Television schedule

Thursday, Nov. 4: 1:30 a.m.-3 a.m. and 1 p.m.-6 p.m. ET on FS2; 5 p.m.-6 p.m. on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Friday, Nov. 5: 12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on FS2; 5 p.m.-9 p.m. on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, Nov. 6: 12 p.m.-6 p.m. on FS2; 2:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on NBCSN; 8 p.m.-9 p.m. on NBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, Nov. 7: 11:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. on FS2; 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on TVG

PEDULLA: Who are three or four of the top international horses to watch?

LUCK: I like a filly called Hello You in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Her trainer, David Loughnane, has a bit of international experience. He’s pretty savvy. I wouldn’t be put off by the fact that he’s never been to a Breeders’ Cup before. I think this is a filly that you need to take seriously. Teona (Longines Turf) is a filly that I think has an enormous amount of talent. I think Tarnawa is going to take a ton of money and I think Teona can give her a race. Loves Only You (Makers' Mark Filly & Mare Turf), with the form she showed in the Sheema Classic, puts her right in the mix here. She’ll love the ground. A mile and three-eighths will be perfect for her.

PEDULLA: Can anyone beat Letruska in the Distaff?

LUCK: She’s had a long season. I wasn’t quite as spellbound by her performance at Keeneland as one or two others. Along the way, you have to wonder about the depth of the opposition. I’d be keen to try to get her beat. I’ve got a huge soft spot for Malathaat. Now, there is no doubt she’d be suited by a little further (distance). I am very confident she’s got the ability combined with the physique to really develop. She may only just be approaching her peak.

PEDULLA: May I ask you for a live longshot? It could be from any race.

LUCK: I’d be interested in the price of Hit the Road in the Mile. You can make a pretty strong case that he ought to have a verdict over Mo Forza and Smooth Like Strait. I don’t love the European challengers in this race, even though I think the horses are talented enough. I’m not sure it’s the ideal scenario for any of them. I think I prefer to take local form. Hit the Road may not be that big a price. But he’d be a nice price, I think.

Hit the Road is one of Nick Luck's Breeders' Cup longshots to watch. (Eclipse Sportswire)

PEDULLA: Can Knicks Go enjoy an uncontested lead in the Classic?

LUCK: If he does end up with an uncontested lead, the other jockeys will be needing to answer a few questions. Surely, John Velazquez (Medina Spirit), for starters, is not going to allow him to get away, is he? I can’t believe he’s going to allow Knicks Go to have his own way.  

PEDULLA: Do you see the Classic as more than a two-horse race?

LUCK: Yes, I do. While I think Essential Quality is the likeliest winner, I think there are four big players – Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, Medina Spirit and Knicks Go.  

PEDULLA: Lastly, who is your Classic pick and why?

LUCK: Essential Quality is my Classic pick. He’s only run one slightly below-par race and that was still respectable when he was fourth in the Kentucky Derby. I think he ought to get the perfect stalking position.

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