- Knicks Go led wire to wire in winning the Grade 1 $1 million USD Whitney Stakes at Saratoga.
- He has now won 7 of his last nine races including victories in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Pegasus World Cup.
- He’ll likely have at least one more race before either defending his crown in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or taking a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The horse racing world will have to reassess their view of Brad Cox trained Knicks Go. The world was expected of him after a scintillating run that saw him conclude his four year old campaign with a victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and begin his five year old schedule with a win in the G1 Pegasus World Cup. That put him at four consecutive wins heading into the Saudi Cup where he finished a disappointing fourth. He dropped another clunker in the Grade 1 Metropolitan at Belmont on June 5 where he once again finished fourth behind Silver State, By My Standards and Mischievous Alex.
His turnaround began on July 2 at Prairie Meadows as he won the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap. With a strong victory in today’s Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga Knicks Go is decidedly no longer in a slump. He went immediately to the lead and after holding off a late challenge from Swiss Skydiver and Silver State completed his ‘wire to wire’ victory by 4.5 lengths. There were definitely a few moments of trepidation for trainer Cox who characterized his mood as being ‘a touch concerned’:
“They were coming to him fairly easy – they’re good horses, they’re going to come to him. At the top of the lane, I thought, he’s still there. We’ll see.”
No doubt having a talented and experienced jockey aboard his horse mitigated his concern. Joel Rosario reminded Knicks Go that the race was not over yet and he responded, running away from a small but talented field. Maxfield took second with G1 Metropolitan winner Silver State finishing third. Swiss Skydiver would end up in fourth with By My Standards bringing up the rear after a poor start. Trainer Cox said his mood brightened considerably during the stretch run:
“I didn’t really think until maybe the last little bit that he’s going to win this thing. At that point I was like ‘Wow, what a horse! What a performance.’ ”
Knicks Go has now won six straight around two turns–his two losses earlier this year were one turn races. The Whitney victory was a ‘Win and You’re In’ event for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 6. The thinking was that Knicks Go would try to defend his BC Dirt Mile championship but now Cox sounds like he’s leaning toward the ‘main event’ of the two day Breeders’ Cup card:
“With it being at a place like Del Mar, it may give you a little more confidence in trying the Classic as opposed to it being at Churchill, where there’s a little bit longer stretch. He does have speed, that’s his weapon and it was on full display today.”
Jockey Joel Rosario said that even as Knicks Go’s lead was shrinking it didn’t feel like the horse was straining or tiring. He relaxed for a few moments but according to Rosario it was like he ‘rebroke’ at the eighth pole:
“He just goes forward and he just keeps going.”
Knicks Go also received rave reviews from his rivals. Brendan Walsh, trainer of runner up Maxfield, said that jockey Jose Ortiz was confident that he could reel him in late:
“He got to a point where he thought he was going to get him and Jose said that horse didn’t stop. But he ran good. Second’s no disgrace.”
Ken McPeek, trainer of third finishing filly Swiss Skydiver, marveled at the speed displayed by Knicks Go:
“Amazing how much speed he shows and carries it. Fantastic horse. Great job by Brad.”
Knicks Go paid $4.10 for the win, $2.70 to place and $2.20 to show. Maxfield returned $2.80 and $2.10 with Silver State paying $2.70 for her third place run. The 4-5 $1 exacta paid $5.00, the 50 cent 4-5-2 trifecta paid $5.60 with the 10 cent 4-5-3-2 Superfecta paying $2.23.