Knicks Go stretched out in distance on Saturday.
Now it appears his racing career will be stretched out, too.
The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner came back from that race in November to roll to victory in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup under jockey Joel Rosario at Gulfstream Park.
Knicks Go, trained by Brad Cox, had never raced longer than a mile and a sixteenth and also was hitting the Gulfstream dirt track for the first time in 18 career starts, but looked comfortable all the way and was a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths better than Jesus’ Team at the wire.
“He is one of the top handicap horses in the country now,” Cox said. “He’s a top horse. This is what you get up for every day, seven days a week, long days for moments like this. I’m very proud of the horse and my team and thank the Korea Racing Authority for the opportunity with this horse.”
“He’s a very special horse,” Rosario said. “He just goes faster and faster. He was really enjoying what he was doing out there, so I was never worried about somebody getting close to me.”
There was speculation that Knicks Go would be retired to stud following the race, which has been the pattern for every winner immediately following the first three Pegasus editions, Arrogate, Gun Runner and City of Light. The 2020 winner, Mucho Gusto, was in training to return to racing, but suffered a soft tissue injury earlier this month and likely is headed to the breeding shed, too.
Early indications are that Korea Racing Authority, which owns Knicks Go, plans to keep him on the track in 2021, and he should be a force in an older male dirt division that is lacking in star power to start the season.
“It’s a very prestigious race,” Cox said. “I know it hasn’t been around that long, but when you look at past winners, it’s a very prestigious list of horses that have won it — world champions, actually, with Gun Runner and Arrogate. They weren’t just national horses. They competed and won on the world stage, so it’s a big race.”
Code of Honor, the 2019 Travers winner at Saratoga Race Course, made a late run from the back of the 12-horse field but finished fifth.
Trainer Todd Pletcher dominated the biggest race on the undercard, the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, as Colonel Liam, Largent and Social Paranoia finished first, second and fourth, respectively.
As a 3-year-old last year, Colonel Liam won an allowance at Saratoga and was fourth to Domestic Spending in the $500,000 Saratoga Derby before closing out his season with a win in the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream on Dec. 26.
“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.”
Largent passed Storm the Court at the toop of the stretch, but his stablemate Colonel Liam and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will able to pass him on the outside to win by a neck.
“He’s run 10 times now and has never been worse than second,” Pletcher said of Largent. “He ran a hell of a race today and just was on the tough side of a stretch duel there.”
Also on the undercard, Performer, an impressive allowance winner at Saratoga as part of a five-race winning streak, won the Grade III Fred Hooper while rebounding from a third in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Dec. 5.
Stage Raider, a half-brother to Triple Crown winner Justify, made his career debut and finished second in the sixth race.
Fans were allowed at Gulfstream Park for the first time in almost a year, but the total was limited to 1,800, about one-sixth of the usual attendance for the Pegasus World Cup card.
Ticket prices ranged from $100-$1,000.