HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP/WJZ) – Whatever happens on Saturday will just be resume padding for Knicks Go. His retirement home has been chosen, his stud fee has been set and he is part of the relatively small Thoroughbreds club with multiple wins in Breeders’ Cup race, including last year’s Classic.
There is not much more to prove.
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“I think he’s probably worthy of being in the Hall of Fame now,” coach Brad Cox said.
He’s probably right – but just in case, Knicks Go has one last chance to add to his legacy.
The Maryland-bred horse’s final race will be on Saturday, when he will likely be the favorite for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. He could become the first consecutive Pegasus winner, and a victory would make him the 10th North American Thoroughbred to cross the $10 million mark in career earnings.
“He has accomplished so much. He owes us nothing,” Cox said. “Hopefully he can come out on a high with a win. We have to go through on Saturday but I would be extremely happy for the horse if he can retire healthy, healthy and happy.
Knicks Go became the first Maryland-bred horse to win the Classic since Cigar in 1995. The previous year, another Maryland horse, Concern, won the Classic for owner and breeder Robert E. Meyerhoff.
Angie Moore and her daughter Sabrina bred Knicks Go (by Paynter and Kosmo’s Buddy) at GreenMount Farm in Reisterstown.
The 6-year-old will face a field of nine, although in the eyes of handicappers and probably most bettors, it is essentially a field of two. Knicks Go was installed as a 6-5 morning line favorite, just ahead of Life Is Good at 7-5. No other horse had better early odds than Chess Chief at 10-1.
Life Is Good was considered the likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby last year before he was pulled from the Triple Crown track following an ankle injury that required surgery. He ran six times with five wins and a second-place finish by a neck.
“He’s very good,” Cox said of Life Is Good. “I mean, it’s no secret. He is a very, very good colt. … It’s going to be a great game. I think it’s great for racing and I’m interested in seeing it myself. I know who I’m rooting for. It’s very good for racing and I’m excited for racing.
There are notable parallels between Knicks Go and Life Is Good. Neither has competed in a Triple Crown race; Knicks Go were winless in eight races as 3-year-old Life Is Good was injured. Both have a speed that simply sets them apart from most challengers. And both have a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on their record, with Knicks Go winning it in 2020 and Life Is Good winning it last year.
“I think any time we can have these kind of big matchups, and especially in a huge race at the start of the year, that’s great for the sport,” said Life Is coach Todd Pletcher. Good.
Knicks GB went straight to the front in last year’s Pegasus, breaking away from the No. 4 spot in the field of 10 and not having much trouble holding off challengers. Knicks Go drew the inside post on Saturday — probably not ideal, although Cox said he wasn’t too worried about that — and Life Is Good will start from that No. 4 post.
If the race goes as past performance suggests, the two will close in on the lead early. And from there, who knows.
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“That’s the $3 million question, isn’t it?” said Plecher. “That’s what we’re about to find out.”
Knicks Go enters the race with just under $8.7 million in career earnings. The rest of the field – which includes a Breeders’ Cup winner in Life Is Good and a former Belmont Stakes winner in Sir Winston – have combined career earnings of $5.2 million.
Technically, all North American Thoroughbreds are considered born on January 1st. Knicks Go was born on January 29, 2016, which means he will actually be 6 years old on Saturday.
Knicks Go have already checked out their nursing home. He spent a few days in the fall at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, where he will be stallion for the relatively modest price – for a horse of his caliber, anyway – of $30,000.
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There are two more races on the Pegasus World Cup schedule on Saturday.
Col. Liam (3-1) is the No. 1 seed in a field of 12 entered in the $1 million Pegasus Turf. Regal Glory (2-1) is the morning favorite out of 11 entries in the Pegasus Filly And Mare Turf 3rd Year, $500,000.
Pletcher saddles both Colonel Liam and Life Is Good, and will have jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard those two horses on Saturday.
The heat won’t be a problem Saturday in South Florida. Forecasters say some of the coldest weather in years is expected this weekend, with high temperatures in Gulfstream Park on Saturday not expected to come out of the upper 50s. It will be about 20 degrees colder than last year’s Pegasus race.
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