Knicks becomes real horse of the year
A variety of factors are mixed into a Horse of the Year award.
The Knicks will checked all these boxes.
The son of Payer won three of America’s richest and most prestigious races for older males in 2021: the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) and the Whitney Stakes (G1).
He traveled abroad to face international competition.
He won five of seven races and earned $7,324,140.
And he epitomized ‘the year’ in Horse of the Year as his illustrious campaign spanned January to November with major Grade 1 wins.
It all came as no surprise that when the 2021 Horse of the Year was announced on February 10 at the Eclipse Awards ceremony, it was Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go that was presented.
“He was a real horse of the year,” said trainer Brad Cox, whose horse was also named Older Male Champion for his exploits in 2021. “It started in January with a victory in the Pegasus World Cup and continued through November when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and sealed his championship. It was a tremendous year. It wasn’t a six-month campaign or a campaign over the course of which he won the prize by default because no one else had solid credentials. There was a great group of horses this year.
In becoming the first Maryland-bred horse of the year since the incomparable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar in 1995-96, Knicks Go was at his best at the start and end of the year, winning the Pegasus and then the Classic by decisive margins and identical 2 3/4 in length in a remarkable testament to its consistency and durability.
“The Breeders’ Cup set him apart from the rest of the horses,” Cox said of the now 6-year-old gray horse bred by Angie Moore out of the Overflow Kosmo’s Buddy mare. “We had (Godolphin) Essential Quality in our stable who was up for Horse of the Year and he had an incredible year, but Knicks Go stepped up and managed to win three Grade 1s at the top level.”
The Korea Racing Authority, the only racing authority in Korea, bought Knicks Go as a year-old in hopes of finding a young horse that could succeed on the racetrack and then help strengthen bloodlines in Korea. . They received much more than that. Now retired after a second-place finish last month in the Pegasus, Knicks Go recorded two Breeders’ Cup wins and earned $9,258,135 in a 25-race Horse of the Year career that will transcend his future life. as a father in Kentucky for Taylor Made Stallions.
“Brad has done a tremendous job with Knicks Go and Knicks Go has done way more than we expected in his career. We would love to have another horse like him but we know it will be hard to do,” said Jun Park. , race director for the KRA.
As popular as Knicks Go has become in America, he has been an indispensable rock star for racing fans in Korea.
“During the pandemic, Koreans couldn’t race, so being able to follow Knicks Go in America and celebrate their wins was great news for them and helped lift their spirits,” Park said. “They now have an exhibition of his winning trophies there and have extended their exhibition until March.”
It cost KRA 87,000 to buy Knicks Go from the Woods Edge Farm consignment at the September 2017 yearling sale at Keeneland. He was originally purchased by Northface Bloodstock for $40,000 from Bill Reightler’s consignment at Keeneland’s November 2016 breeding sale.
At 2 for KRA and coach Ben Colebrook, Knicks GB pulled off a surprise 70-1 win in the Claiborne Breeders’ Future (G1) and finished second in the Sentient Jets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) to champion 2 years old Winner of the game .
He ended his juvenile season running in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) as a 3-1 favorite, but on a sloppy track he chased from second place early and moved up to 11th in a performance that started a free fall.
At the age of 3, he was winless in eight starts while only placing twice, prompting the KRA to move him to Cox’s barn for the 2020 season. There he is not only returned to top form, but he eventually reached new and unexpected heights in the sport’s premier races.
Two lopsided wins in the Optional Claimants led to an easy victory in the Big Ass Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Fans and positioned Knicks Go for its championship season.
He started 2021 at the January 23 Pegasus, where he scored by 2 3/4 lengths as a 6-5 favorite.
Then he traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Saudi Cup and was edged out for first place by Charlatan and finished fourth.
Upon returning to the United States, Knicks Go was ejected as a 4-5 pick in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap (G1), but faded to fourth place after setting the pace early.
Cox speculated that the one lap distance of the Met Mile was not suitable for Knicks Go and he was right when the multiple Grade 1 winner returned to road racing and beat 10 1/4 lengths under regular rider Joel Rosario in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) then rode to a score of 4 1/2 in the prestigious Whitney at Saratoga Racetrack on earth male finalist Maxfield and winner of the Met Mile silver state .
As a tune up for the world championships, Knicks GB picked up a four-length victory in the Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill Falls.
This set the stage for the huge year-end showdown in the $5.4 million Classic in which Knicks Go took on top 3-year-olds Essential Quality, Spirit of Medina and Hot Rod Charlie as well as winner of the Gold Cup of the Jockey Club (G1) Max player .
Immediately taking the test lead from 1 1/4 mile to Del Mar under Rosario, Knicks Go passed their first test at 10 furlongs in brilliant fashion. He never looked back after breaking fast and setting fast fractions of: 45.77 and 1:10.04. Leading by a length at the quarter pole, he pulled away from his seven rivals and extended the lead into the stretch, triumphing by 2 3/4 lengths over Medina Spirit while crossing the wire in a fleet of 1 : 59.57.
“I’m extremely happy with the result today. It had been a tough time when he was 3 years old, but we got over that tough year and then we turned the corner and he became a special horse,” said Jin Woo Lee, Senior Director of KRA, said through an interpreter after the Classic. “And actually winning the Breeders’ Cup was the ultimate goal at the start of the year and we got that win.”
His second Breeders’ Cup victory also gave Knicks Go major wins at the start and end of the 2021 season and removed all the drama surrounding who should be the Horse of the Year.
“It was a big, big race and he had a couple of good years for us,” Cox said. “What he achieved in 2021, with the three Grade 1 wins and the possibility of winning two in January and November, was incredible. He was truly the horse of the year.”