February 20, 2024

Red Knight, North Dakota rubber match on tap in Elkhorn

Red Knight
Red Knight wins the Sycamore at Keeneland (Coady Photography)

Elkhorn S. (G2) — Race 9 (5:30 p.m. ET)

Red Knight will look to make amends on a couple accounts as the likely favorite in Saturday’s $200,000 Elkhorn S. (G2) at Keeneland, a 1 1/2-mile grass fixture for older horses.

A Bill Mott-trained seven-year-old, Red Knight was run down by Bigger Picture when last contesting the Elkhorn in April 2019, losing by a half-length. Continuing to display a fondness for the Keeneland turf when returning last fall to win the Sycamore (G3) by two lengths, Red Knight’s 2020 campaign ended with a half-length loss to returning rival North Dakota in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct in November.

The Elkhorn serves as a rubber match between Red Knight and the Shug McGaughey-trained North Dakota, a half-brother to prominent sire War Front. North Dakota was beaten a little more than two lengths by Red Knight in the Sycamore prior to reversing that result in his 8-1 upset of the Red Smith. North Dakota has made one start this year, in the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), in which he finished 10th by 4 1/4 lengths over a too-short 1 3/16-mile trip.

Say the Word also likely found the distance of the Pegasus World Cup Turf shorter than he would prefer, but otherwise brings excellent form into the Elkhorn. Winner of the Northern Dancer Turf (G1) at Woodbine last fall, Say the Word has closely placed in both the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), to Arklow, and in the San Luis Rey (G3), to United, since joining Phil D’Amato’s Santa Anita stable.

Tide of the Sea was a wire-to-wire winner of the W.L. McKnight (G3) prior to a second-place finish in the Mac Diarmida (G2) in his last start on Feb. 27. Cross Border is another with respectable Florida form having run third in both the Pegasus World Cup Turf and Pan American (G2) in his last two.

Channel Cat is winless since taking the Bowling Green (G2) in July 2019 and could be up against it again, while Argentinean import Fantasioso makes his U.S. debut after placing at Group 1 level twice in his homeland last October.