Horse racing is a sport that tends to retire its stars rather than run them, so it grabbed everyone’s attention when Knicks Go won his fourth race in a row Saturday, the Grade 1 $3-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.
It actually wasn’t much of a race as Knicks Go went to the lead and strolled along through the first three-quarters of the 1 1/8-mile race before extending his lead to 2 3/4 lengths at the finish line. It was the first major horse race that has been run in front of spectators that were not just owners. The track limited attendance to 1,800.
The 5-year-old Knicks Go had won his first three races by more than a combined 20 lengths since moving to the barn of Brad Cox. In his last start the horse won the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by 3 ½ lengths. Obviously, going longer than a mile was not a problem.
“You want your horse to perform the way you watched him train and watched him breeze,” Cox said. “You lead him over here with confidence and they kick away down the lane. It’s a special moment. Obviously, a race like this is one you’ll never forget.”
Knicks Go paid $4.60, $3.60 and $3.00. Jesus’ Team was second followed by Independence Hall, for Santa Anita-based Michael McCarthy, Sleepy Eyes Todd, Code Of Honor, Coastal Defense, Kiss Today Goodbye, for trainer Eric Kruljac, Last Judgment, Math Wizard, Tax, Mr Feeze and Harper’s First Ride.
Jockey Joel Rosario came out from Santa Anita to ride Knicks Go for the third time.
“A very special horse,” Rosario said. “He just goes faster and faster. … He really enjoyed what he was doing up there. I was never worried about somebody getting close to me because I know he was going to have a little more left in the end.”
Not a sport to take advantage of its good fortune, the ownership group of Korea Racing Authority, has already figured out the horse’s future. He will race the rest of this year and then be retired and turned into a stallion.
In the other major race of the day, the $1-million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, it was all trainer Todd Pletcher, whose three starters finished first, second and fourth. Favorite Colonel Liam got up by a neck at the finish to beat stablemate Largent. The early part of the 1 3/16-mile race belonged to a couple of Southern California horses as Storm The Court and Anothertwistafate held the lead with easy fractions. But coming off the far turn, there were a bunch of horses with more finish than the leaders.
Largent moved through on the inside and Colonel Liam, who was trapped on the rail on the turn, maneuvered to the outside and had the clear momentum and surged past in the last few jumps. Colonel Liam paid $7.00, $4.20 and $3.20. Cross Border finished third and was followed by Social Paranoia, Pixelate, Next Shares, Storm The Court, Aquaphobia, Breaking The Rules, North Dakota, Say The Word and Anothertwistafate.
“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.”