Knicks Go Sets Sizzling Pace, Easily Wins Dirt Mile For Cox

Joel Rosario is like a statue as Knicks Go romps to a 3 1/2-length Dirt Mile victory

Knicks Go came into Saturday’s $1-million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with just one previous stakes win – the G1 Breeders’ Futurity over the same Keeneland dirt track as a 2-year-old in 2018 – yet was sent away the 9-5 favorite over a field that included 2019 G1 Preakness winner War of Will, 2020 G2 Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector and recent G2 Kelso Handicap winner Complexity.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, the son of Paynter ran like a 1-9 shot, going to the lead immediately, setting sizzling fractions of :21.98, :44.40, 1:08.25 and 1:20.76, then cruising to a 3 1/2-length victory with his rider never asking him. Knicks Go covered the one mile on an obviously fast and speed favoring track in a track record 1:33.85.

Liam’s Map set the previous record for the little-used distance at Keeneland when winning the 2015 Dirt Mile in 1:34.54. The run-up for today’s Dirt Mile was 190 feet, compared to 210 feet in 2015.

“It looked like he was going easy,” said Rosario.”I didn’t know how fast he was going. He went 44 (seconds for a half mile). That was very fast. He was able to hang in there and have a kick at the eighth pole.  It was a very good performance.” 

Owned by the Korea Racing Authority and now trained by Brad Cox, Knicks Go returned $5.60 on a $2 win wager. Jesus’ Team finished second, a nose ahead of Sharp Samurai, who encountered trouble in the early stages of the race. They were followed across the wire by Complexity, Owendale, Mr. Freeze, Rushie, Art Collector, War of Will, Silver Dust, Mr. Money and Pirate’s Punch.

Bred in Maryland by Angie Moore and sold for $87,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Knicks go was initially trained by Ben Colebrook. In addition to his Breeders’ Futurity victory, Knicks Go finished second behind Game Winner in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in 2018 after dueling on the front end throughout with Complexity, who wound up 10th that day.

For Knicks Go, the Juvenile began a 10-race losing streak that extended through the entire 2019 season. The colt was transferred to Cox and responded with two allowance/optional claiming race victories going wire to wire: the first at Oaklawn on Feb. 22 when he won by 7 1/2 lengths and the second at Keeneland on Oct. 4, winning by 10 1/4 lengths. The Beyer Speed Figures of 100 and 107, respectively, were well above his previous career best of 93 when second in the 2019 Ellis Park Derby behind Gray Magician.

The Dirt Mile was Cox’s third Breeders’ Cup victory in 2020. He won two on Friday with Aunt Pearl in the G1 Juvenile Fillies Turf and with Essential Quality in the G1 Juvenile.

“He’s very fast and he loves Keeneland as well,” Cox said of Knicks Go. “We picked the horse up last winter and he really loves it here. Joel did a fantastic job of asking him to be forwardly placed and he responded well. They went very quick and he was able to keep going. This is a good race for him with the short stretch. A lot of things were in his favor today. He’s a very aggressive horse, he loves to train. He’s just a very classy horse.” 

A representative of the Korea Racing Authority indicated Knicks Go would eventually go to stud in South Korea, which is in the process of improving its Thoroughbred industry’s breeding program. No determination was made if Knicks Go (named for a breeding/selection process known as K-nicks) would continue to race or be retired.

Other comments following the Dirt Mile.  

Second-place trainer Jose D’Angelo (Jesus’ Team) – “He has done great work (training) at Keeneland. Every day, every week he improved. He likes this track. He is the best horse I have trained in the USA and in my life, too. I am very sure that in his next race, he will be closer to a win.” 

Second-place jockey Luis Saez (Jesus’ Team) – “I was wishing I could take him outside but if I did I would have been wide. But he ran a good race. He tries so hard.” 

Third-place trainer Mark Glatt (Sharp Samurai) – “We’re pleased with finishing third. A little unfortunate in the first turn. I want to watch the replay and see what happened. Irad said the one horse came out on him and made him check on heels there. I think that may have potentially cost him second. You spend quite a bit of energy and are also then farther back. He just ran into a buzz saw after that with Knicks Go. I thought down the backside we were in a decent spot and then third around the turn was pleased and would think they would have to stop for sure given the pace scenario. He’s extremely versatile. He runs seemingly as well on dirt as he does turf and hopefully we can find a good race that he can win.”  

Fourth-place jockey Jose Ortiz (Complexity) – “Good trip. The track is super fast. I felt like we went in :46 and change and the winner held on.” 

Eighth-place Brian Hernandez Jr. (Art Collector)“We had a good spot. Going down the backside I was able to hop outside the 2 (Sharp Samurai) on the lead and just see if I could make a run from that point. They were just faster than him today. He couldn’t make up the difference on them.”

Eighth-place trainer Tommy Drury (Art Collector) “That was it (what Brian said). Those were my thoughts. Down the backside you’re thinking that these things should soften up and come back to you a little. Just didn’t happen today. They kept going.”

Published at Sat, 07 Nov 2020 19:11:31 +0000

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