Knicks Go gave the performance of a lifetime as he led gate-to-wire in the $1,000,000 Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile-G1 to win by three and a half lengths in track record time Saturday, Nov. 7 at Keeneland, becoming just the fifth Maryland-bred in history to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
Owned by Korea Racing Authority, the 4-year-old son of Paynter broke quickly to the lead with jockey Joel Rosario and blew through fractions of :21.98 and :44.40. Blazing around the far turn, he hit three-quarters of a mile in 1:08.25 and kicked away. Longshot Jesus’ Team, third last out in the Preakness, ran on late to get up for second.
Knicks Go stopped the clock in 1:33.85, breaking the track mark of 1:34.54 set by Liam’s Map in the 2015 Dirt Mile. It was his second Keeneland track record in his past two starts - the Brad Cox trainee also holds the mile and a sixteenth record of 1:40.79 set in an allowance on Oct. 4.
"This was never something that we even had on our target when we ran this horse a month ago or five weeks ago at Keeneland [when he set the 1 1/16-mile record],” Cox said. "That was just a preparation race for possibly the Clark Handicap or the Cigar Mile. He's obviously very impressive in the third level and breaking the track record and doing it with ease, so I thought as long as he's doing well, we would give him an opportunity here, if he could even get in. There was no certainty that he would even make the body, but very thankful for Breeders' Cup for allowing him to run and he it looks like they made the right decision. He's a very nice horse." The gray went off as the favorite in the Dirt Mile’s field of 12.
Knicks Go made headlines in 2018 when he upset Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity-G1 by five and a half lengths at 70-1, paying $142 to win, in just his fourth career start. He had won his debut that July but followed with a fifth-place finish in the Sanford Stakes-G3 at Saratoga. A month prior to the Breeders’ Futurity he was third in the Arlington-Washington Futurity.
That outstanding juvenile performance earned the Maryland-bred a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, where he battled hard against Game Winner to finish two and a half lengths back in second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1. He closed out his 2-year-old season later that month with an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes-G2.
As a 3-year-old, Knicks Go made eight starts between February and November, six of them Grade 3. The colt’s best efforts were a second-place finish in the Ellis Park Derby, and fourth-place finishes in the Lexington Stakes-G3 and Super Derby-G3.
Transferred from trainer Ben Colebrook to Cox this season, Knicks Go returned with a seven and a half-length allowance win at Oaklawn Park in February. The gray colt recorded two more works at Oaklawn in March but was away from the races for nearly four months after surgery to remove a bone chip. He returned to the work tab mid-July.
Now 3-for-3 this year, Knicks Go has improved his record to 5-3-1 from 17 career starts, with the winner’s share of $520,000 from his Breeders’ Cup victory pushing his earnings over the million-dollar mark to $1,348,995.
KRA may try Knicks Go in one more start this year before he retires to stand stud in South Korea.
“[This pedigree] is what we're looking for for breeding as a stallion prospect," said Jun Park of the KRA. "We also have a good selection system, which is created by the team at the Korea Racing Authority, and that's why we're buying the colts in the United States. And then I believe this victory will make the Korea horse industry more forward, more globalized, and improve the Korean homebred as well."
Sold for $40,000 as a weanling to Northface Bloodstock, Knicks Go was later purchased as a yearling for $87,000 by KRA at the 2017 Keeneland September sale.
Bred by GreenMount Farm’s Sabrina Moore and her mother Angie, the two-time Grade 1 winner is the fourth foal from his dam Kosmo’s Buddy, a multiple stakes-winning daughter of Outflanker. Campaigned by breeder Arnold Smolen for all but her last two starts, Kosmo’s Buddy was claimed for $40,000 by the Moores at Monmouth Park in September 2010, and made one additional start, finishing fourth in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint Handicap behind Ben’s Cat (she won the race two years earlier). Kosmo’s Buddy produced five Maryland-bred foals for Moore, with three winners from four starters, before being sold privately at the end of 2018.
The mare currently has a weanling filly by Justify and was bred back to Ghostzapper for 2021.
Other Maryland-bred Breeders’ Cup winners are Safely Kept (Sprint, 1990), Concern (Classic, 1994), Cigar (Classic, 1995) and Sharing (Juvenile Fillies Turf, 2019).
Read more about the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile here