After splitting Breeders’ Cup-bound Arklow and Zulu Alpha at Kentucky Downs, Red Knight ran himself into Turf (G1) consideration in Thursday’s $150,000 Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. The 2.40-1 favorite had the gears for deft maneuvering by jockey James Graham, and set a new stakes record for the 1 1/2-mile feature over the same course and distance as the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Trained by Bill Mott, the Trinity Farm homebred was saving ground in the latter part of the field as Postulation carved out splits of :24.84, :51.08, 1:16.04, and 1:40.76. Aquaphobia, the 3.10-1 second choice who was auditioning for the Turf, appeared to be well placed attending the slow pace. But he didn’t find as much as expected from that perch.
Meanwhile, Graham spied an opportunity to peel off the rail approaching the final turn, and Red Knight responded with moves worthy of his chess piece. Scything through the pack and into the clear in the stretch, the chestnut gelding rolled past a gritty Postulation.
Red Knight opened up by two lengths while clocking 2:28.81 on the firm course. The prior stakes record of 2:29.55 was established by Sharbayan in 2003. According to Equibase, Sharbayan had no run-up on the Haggin Course. Red Knight had a 185-foot run-up, and the rail was out 10 feet.
Postulation salvaged second by a head from Ziyad, who endured a wide trip in his U.S. premiere for Graham Motion. North Dakota had the opposite problem, in tight on the inside behind Postulation, before rallying for fourth another head back. He’s No Lemon, Big Agenda, Aquaphobia, Eons, Split the Wickets, and Morning Stride rounded out the order of finish.
“I saw what was happening around me,” Graham recapped. “Manny (Franco on Ziyad) moved out around the backside. Brian (Hernandez)’s horse (Eons) started to come out under pressure, and I split two horses and (Red Knight) came right back on the bridle, which was great. And then he accelerated turning for home. Everything went great. He was probably two lengths further back than I wanted to be (early), but it worked out.”
Assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy had the same reaction as the race unfolded.
“I had similar thoughts – I wished he was a little bit closer. A wonderful ride by James, a great decision on the turn to split those horses. And then he really picked the horse (Red Knight) up and finished strongly.”
Red Knight’s first graded victory advanced his record to 21-8-6-1, $732,158. The 6-year-old started out in the New York-bred ranks as a sophomore in 2017, then progressed to open company the following year. Red Knight capped 2018 by earning his first stakes laurel in the H. Allen Jerkens at Gulfstream, in course-record time for two miles. In 2019, he was runner-up in both the Elkhorn (G2) and Red Smith (G3), and added the Point of Entry to his resume. Fourth as the 9-10 favorite in the Jan. 25 W.L. McKnight (G3), Red Knight was sidelined until the Sept. 12 Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), when a fine second to Arklow.
By Pure Prize and out of the Skip Away mare Isabel Away, Red Knight is a half-brother to multiple stakes scorer Macagone (by Artie Schiller).