November 27, 2021

Knicks Go sharp in Lukas Classic; Plainsman rallies to upend Beau Liam in Ack Ack

Knicks Go wins the 2021 Lukas Classic
Knicks Go wins the 2021 Lukas Classic (Photo by Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

Lukas Classic (G3)

Tuning up for the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Knicks Go rolled to a convincing wire-to-wire win in the $400,000 Lukas Classic (G3). Joel Rosario saved plenty for next time inside the furlong as the 1-10 favorite cruised to a four-length decision, recording his third consecutive stakes tally, and Brad Cox trains the gray five-year-old horse for the Korea Racing Authority.

“We’re excited to get this race under our belt,” Cox said. “He’s a fast horse and he’s dangerous when he gets to show that speed around two turns. Joel gave him an easy trip on the front end. He seemed like he was able to take a breather and open back up around the turn. On to the Breeders’ Cup.”

The four-time Grade 1 winner will be one of the top betting choices in the 1 1/4-mile Classic at Del Mar.

The 1 1/8-mile Lukas Classic was the first of two stakes with Breeders’ Cup implications at Churchill Downs on Saturday, and Knicks Go reeled off comfortable splits in :23.53, :47.27, and 1:10 before drawing off on the far turn.

Rosario kept his mount well off the rail through the stretch, and Maryland-bred Knicks Go finished in 1:47.85 while scoring up wraps. The four-time Grade 1 victor has earned $554,135 from a 23-9-3-1 record.

“I kept him off the rail today a little bit, but he was going very easy,” Rosario said. “He’s a really fast horse and he did what he needed to do. He’s always been an impressive horse to ride and always been quick. Today he did things very easily, and now on to bigger things.”

Independence Hall wound up second, 1 1/2 lengths better than Shared Sense in third, and Tacitus, Chess Chief, and Sprawl completed the order.

By Paynter, Knicks Go was bred by Angie Moore. He hails from multiple stakes-winning Outflanker mare Kosmo’s Buddy, and his connections purchased him for $87,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Winner of the 2018 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) when trained by Ben Colebrook, Knicks Go was transferred to Cox prior to last season. He really came on last fall, romping in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and easily added January’s Pegasus World Cup (G1) before a four-race win streak came to an end during the spring.

Knicks Go was exiting a 4 1/2-length triumph in the Aug. 7 Whitney (G1) at Saratoga.

Ack Ack (G3)

Plainsman rallied to upset odds-on Beau Liam in the $300,000 Ack Ack (G3), notching his third stakes victory in the last four starts. Overlooked at nearly 6-1 for Shortleaf Stable and Cox, the six-year-old horse completed the one-turn mile in 1:33.85.

It marked the first loss in four starts for Beau Liam, who was making his stakes debut for Steve Asmussen. Plainsman rated off the pace with Rosario, splits foes entering the stretch, and closed determinedly along the inside of the runner-up to win by a length.

Beau Liam finished a length better than pacesetter Atoka in third. Next came 4-1 second choice Rushie, South Bend, Mr Dumas, Guest Suite, Exculpatory, and Mo Mosa.

After making only three starts in both 2019 and 2020, Plainsman is on an upward trajectory. He was exiting wins in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial S. at Indiana Grand and the Jim Rasmussen S. at Prairie Meadows, and the son of Flatter improved his career record to 25-8-6-3.

Plainsman was bred in Kentucky by Joseph Minor, and he is out of the Street Sense mare S S Pinafore.