There are several intriguing aspects to the story of KNICKS GO, who romped in the $3 million PEGASUS WORLD CUP (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The fast grey 5-year-old horse led all the way in the Pegasus, racing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89 for his second straight 108 Beyer Speed Figure, according to Daily Racing Form.
Some fans were allowed at Gulfstream and it was easy to see there were some sizable crowds trackside during the races. Photos and videos of the post races party swirled on social media later, large crowds in a bar/dining room setting with no masks. Wagering of $40.7 million was down just over 2% from a year ago.
The Maryland-bred by Paynter – Kosmo’s Buddy by Outflanker defeated a solid field of older horses, although certainly not the calibre of horses seen in previous years of the 5-year-old race. But there is no question about the fact that the Brad Cox-trained horse is the best of his division right now, riding a four-race winning streak, including the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November, that began when Cox took over his training early in 2020.
Korea Racing Authority is owner (more on that later) and it was Jun Park, the American-based representative for Korea Racing Authority, who has explained the origin and correct pronunciation of the name, Knicks Go.
Knicks is actually pronounced “K-Nicks” by the horses’ owners. The K is for Korea and Nicks is for the bloodstock word that refers to picking out bloodlines that will match sire and dam.
Knicks Go was originally a $40,000 weanling purchase at Keenland in 2016, bought by Northface Bloodstock. He was then sold the next year at the Keeneland September sale for $87,000 to the KRA.
His sire, Paynter, a son of the late Awesome Again, the richest Canadian-bred in history, has not set the world on fire as a stud and the mare, Kosmo’s Buddy, a stakes winner of $298,000 including the Maryland Million Turf Sprint, had just two winners from her first three foals to race.
Sent to trainer Ben Colebrook he went out and won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity as a 2-year-old at Keeneland at 70 to 1.
But that would be the horse’s last win and he went 10 races for the owners with just a couple of second-place finishes.
He was transferred to Cox, won an allowance race at Oaklawn last February before injuring an ankle. He then came back in October and won an allowance race before his track record-setting Breeders’ Cup romp.
Cox has said that a more aggressive training regime has led to the improvement in Knicks Go.
“He is one of the top handicap horses in the country now. He’s a top horse. This is what you get up for every day, seven days a week, long days for moments like this,” Cox said. “I’m very proud of the horse and my team and thank the Korea Racing Authority for the opportunity with this horse.”
Meanwhile, how intriguing is it that only one month ago, in late December, Gulfstream boss BELINDA STRONACH told North American sales companies, owners, and breeders to stop selling horses to Korea because of concerns they might end up in a slaughterhouse. This followed a video that circulated on social media of American stakes horse and Kentucky Derby competitor Private Vow, who suffered that fate.
The Korea racing and breeding industry has been sliding into collapse and Korea had already issued its own ban on bringing horses in from the US and other countries. You can read more here.
So there was Knicks Go, winner of the Stronach family’s big name race, his 6th win in 18 races, for the Korea Racing Authority – just another fascinating story in the world of racing.
The Colonel wins the Pegasus Turf
Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam (Liam’s Map – Amazement by Bernardini), the least experienced contender in the richest grass race of the winter season, looked like a seasoned pro in his graded-stakes debut, powering through the stretch to edge Grade 2-winning stablemate Largent by a neck in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
A $1.2 million Ocala April 2-year-old sale purchase in 2019, Colonel Liam was making just his sixth start and first as a 4-year-old. Incredibly, he was bought as a yearling by Waves Bloodstock for just $50,000.
Colonel Liam ($7) completed the distance in 1:53.09 over a firm course (99 Beyer Figure) to lead a Todd Pletcher-trained exacta with Largent, winner of the Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 12 at Gulfstream in his previous start. Cross Border, trying to give trainer Mike Maker his second straight Pegasus Turf victory, was third, followed by multiple graded-stakes winner Social Paranoia – the third of Pletcher’s talented trio.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way they all ran,” Pletcher said. “It was a heck of a race between Largent and Colonel Liam at the end. I thought Social Paranoia put in a huge effort from the 12 post. Just really, really happy with all three of them.”
It was the first Pegasus win for Pletcher and second in three editions of the Turf for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., also winning with eventual 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. Ortiz won the 2020 Pegasus World Cup with Mucho Gusto.
“This is just unreal. It’s fantastic,” Robert Low said. “We just had a great combination. We had the horse, we had the trainer, we had the rider, and they got it done. We’re just very, very thankful and very grateful. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Sent off as the 5-2 top choice, Colonial Liam was unhurried, racing in mid-pack as Storm the Court, winless since being named the 2-year-old male champion of 2019, and multiple graded-stakes winner Anothertwistafate took the field through splits of 23.59 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 48.69 for a half and six furlongs in 1:12.85. Largent saved ground in fourth with Social Paranoia right behind after working his way over from outside Post 12.
Ortiz sat chilly on Colonial Liam while waiting for room around the turn, advancing to fourth just a half-length off the lead. Ortiz found an opening and tipped outside approaching the stretch, setting down for a drive once straightened for home. They were able to get by Social Paranoia, who briefly held a lead near the eighth pole, then outsprinted Largent, who snuck through a seam along the rail and dug in under Paco Lopez.
“In the second and third quarter everybody slowed down and I got good position. I waited inside and got through a little late,” Lopez said. “If I was able to get through earlier, it might have been different.”
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Largent, a two-time Virginia-bred stakes winner in addition to his Fort Lauderdale triumph, now has six wins and four seconds in 10 lifetime tries.
“He’s run 10 times now and has never been worse than second,” Pletcher said. “He ran a hell of a race today and just was on the tough side of a stretch duel there.”
There were plenty of other graded stakes race on the Gulfstream card, but it was a maiden race for 3-year-olds that caught the attention of most fans.
Godolphin LLC’s Prevalence produced a spectacular debut on Saturday’ Pegasus Day program, scoring by 8 ½ lengths under a motionless Tayler Gaffalione in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race.
He put up an 89 Beyer Figure.
The 3-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro ($17.60) slipped through along the rail to take the lead midway along the backstretch, shook off an outside challenge by Stage Raider, a half-brother to 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify, and kicked away to a thoroughly dominating victory.
“I thought he was a nice colt. He put in some nice work, but of course, you’re always looking for confirmation. Thankfully, we got it,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “It was a lovely experience, which is great for a young 3-year-old first time out.”
The homebred colt ran seven furlongs in 1:23 in the Race 6 sprint. John Gunther’s Stage Raider, a half brother to Justify, finished second in his debut, a half-length ahead of Ghazaaly, a debuting son of Curlin for Shadwell Stable.
Prevalence is the 5th foal for his dam Enrichment who was winless in 8 career races. Enrichment is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Better Lucky. The 3rd dam is Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer.