October 25, 2021

Knicks Go dominates Whitney on front end

Knicks Go wins the Whitney Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

After opening a commanding lead on the backstretch, Knicks Go easily proved best in Saturday’s 94th edition of the $1 million Whitney S. (G1) at Saratoga, rolling to a 4 1/2-length victory. The five-year-old horse sped the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.70.

Owned by the Korea Racing Authority and trained Brad Cox, Knicks Go was sent straight to the lead by Joel Rosario, briefly dueling with Swiss Skydiver before drawing clear leaving the first turn. His advantage shrunk on the far turn, and the frontrunning gray swung extremely wide into the stretch, but Knicks Go saved plenty for the latter stages.

He drew off sharply in the final furlong, scoring as the even-money favorite among five accomplished older runners, and Knicks Go stamped his ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in the “Win & You’re In” race.

“I was challenged a little bit going to the first turn, but (Swiss Skydiver) sent a little bit and I was just going to see what they were going to do and take it from there,” Rosario said. “I was a half-length in front going into the turn, and I just decided to keep him going forward.

“The way he was moving he just skipped to the last quarter-pole. He loved what he was doing. He was very relaxed and going forward. I was really happy with the way he was going turning for home.”

Knicks Go established splits in :23.42, :46.76, 1:10.32, and 1:34.84.

“Maybe down the lane at the sixteenth pole I thought, ‘Oh wow’. He’s going to win this thing’, and at that point I was thinking, ‘What a horse. What a performance,’” Cox said. “For him to go forty-six and change and spread out down the backside and get away from them and just kick on at the eighth pole and have to fight off some really, really good challengers.

“This was an incredibly deep group of horses and I’m very proud of the effort of my horse today.

Knicks Go notched his fourth Grade 1 win, including convincing tallies in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and January’s Pegasus World Cup (G1).

His four-race win streak came to an end with back-to-back fourths in the Saudi Cup (G1) and Met Mile (G1) earlier this season, but Knicks Go rebounded stylishly with a 10-length romp in the July 2 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3) in advance of the Whitney.

Knicks Go wins the Whitney Stakes (Photo by Joe Labozzetta/Coglianese Photos)

“He ran huge,” Cox said. “There’s always a concern when you ship to Saratoga and this can be a demanding surface. I thought the race at Prairie Meadows really tuned him up well. He was well within himself, and that was his big work for this race five weeks ago. He had three maintenance works at Ellis, and he came in here a fresh and happy horse, ready to go.”

Maxfield, the 2-1 second choice, rallied to be second by the top of the stretch, but he was never a threat to the winner. It was nearly two lengths back to Silver State, who was well clear of Swiss Skydiver. By My Standards trailed throughout after stumbling at the break.

Knicks Go has now earned $5,368,000 from a 22-8-3-1 record.

“Joel Rosario fits this horse like a glove,” Cox said. “Joel is a really good horseman and he gets run out of a lot of horses, and this is one that he obviously fits extremely well.”

By Paynter, Knicks Go was bred in Kentucky by Angie Moore and hails from the multiple stakes-winning Outflanker mare Kosmo’s Buddy. He was purchased for $87,000 as a 2017 Keeneland September yearling. Knicks Go was initially trained by Ben Colebrook before being transferred to Cox last year.

Cox was asked about future plans, including whether Knicks Go will point to the Breeders’ Cup Classic or a title defense in the Dirt Mile.

“He’s a very sound horse and he’s happy,” the reigning Eclipse Award-winning conditioner said. “We wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t. We’ll come up with a plan somehow. We’ll just let the dust settle, but it will probably be the Classic.”