Turning a Profit with Heavy Favorite Knicks Go in Lukas Classic

Gambling
Knicks Go is one a three-race winning streak entering the Lukas Classic Stakes Oct. 2 at Churchill Downs, a streak that included his runaway win the the Whitney Stakes, above. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Amidst a slew of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races this upcoming weekend in New York, California, and France, the $400,000, Grade 3 Lukas Classic Stakes Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs will carve out its own slice of attention based on the presence of one contender: Knicks Go.

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, Sept. 30: 2:30 p.m.-8 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, Oct. 1: 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, Oct. 2: 12:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, Oct. 3: 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on FS2; 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on FS1; 5:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

That 5-year-old horse currently ranks No. 1 in the expert rankings for the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 6 at Del Mar, and trainer Brad Cox has chosen to keep Knicks Go at his home base of Churchill Downs and run him in the Lukas Classic for his final prep rather than ship him elsewhere.

The Lukas Classic is not part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series offering automatic berths to World Championship races, but Knicks Go already secured a “Win and You’re In” spot in the Classic back in early August, when he posted a 4 ½-length score over Maxfield in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga.

Knicks Go (#2) has won three of five starts this year – and six of eight overall since he was transferred to Cox in 2020 – by flaunting overpowering early speed. He has led at every point of call in his victories, and his only two losses have come in one-turn races (the Saudi Cup and the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap). His three wins this year have all come at the 1 1/8-mile trip he’ll run in the Lukas Classic, and in the Whitney he defeated a small, but accomplished field with ease. On Saturday, he’ll face another sparse group that is decidedly less threatening.

With regular rider Joel Rosario traveling to Churchill for the mount, there’s no reason to expect Knicks Go to do anything other than what he’s done previously: go straight to the lead and gallop his opponents into submission. A couple of his foes have won races this year by setting or pressing the pace – stablemate Shared Sense (#4) and Sprawl (#6) – but they have not posted speed figures as consistently high as Knicks Go, and it would appear self-defeating for either to try to match strides with the Whitney winner from the get-go.

The other three Lukas starters – Chess Chief (#1), veteran Tacitus (#3), who is making his first start since the Saudi Cup in February, and Independence Hall (#5) – are stalker/closer types and lack the closing punch necessary to threaten Knicks Go if he’s loose on the lead.

Assessing the Lukas Classic field, it’s hard to make the case for an upset unless something unexpected happens to Knicks Go. He should be able to avoid trouble at the starting gate, get out to a swift start, and control the Lukas Classic as he did the Whitney. Since I’m anticipating that scenario, the best option for turning a profit is finding one or two horses to couple with Knicks Go in an exacta (picking the first two finishers in a race).

I actually give Sprawl the best chance at scoring the upset on Saturday – but as noted above, only if something happens to Knicks Go that keeps him from setting the pace. I expect that runner, who is in good form this year with a near-miss in the 1 1/8-mile Blame Stakes back in June and a last-out win in the 1 1/16-mile West Virginia Governor’s Cup, to sit second behind Knicks Go early on and through the backstretch, and he could hold that position all the way around. Shared Sense, who as noted above is also trained by Cox, is an intriguing horse who is 2-for-2 at 1 1/8 miles and hasn’t reached his full potential yet, in my opinion. It’s a sign of confidence that Cox would enter him in the Lukas Classic against such a formidable opponent, and the 4-year-old son of Street Sense also prefers to employ a stalking style that he could carry a long way Saturday.

As such, I recommend using a $20 budget to key Knicks Go on top of a $10 exacta with either Shared Sense or Sprawl coming in second. I figure a $1 exacta will pay around $6 with Sprawl and possibly $8-$10 with Shared Sense. Multiply those amounts by 10, and you can turn a decent profit either way.

Here’s what to say at the betting windows:

Churchill Downs, Race 8, $10 exacta, 2 with 4 and 6.

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

2021 Lukas Classic S.
October 2nd, 2021

Winning Time: 1:47.85
  • Purse: $400,000
  • Distance: 1 1/8 Miles
  • Age: 3 yo's & up
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Winning Time: 1:47.85
Results
Win
Place
Show
1st
2 Knicks Go
$2.20
$2.10
$2.10
2nd
5 Independence Hall
$3.40
$2.60
  • Breeder / Woodford Thoroughbreds
3rd
4 Shared Sense
$3.40
4th
3 Tacitus
  • Owner / Juddmonte
  • Breeder / Juddmonte Farms Inc.
5th
1 Chess Chief
6th
6 Sprawl
Payoff
Pick 3
11-11-2
11-11-2
$3
Pick 4
7-2/11-1/11-2
7-2/11-1/11-2
$154
Pick 5
1-7-2/11-1/11-2
1-7-2/11-1/11-2
$395
Daily Double
11-2
11-2
$2
Exacta
2-5
2-5
$8
Superfecta
2-5-4-3
2-5-4-3
$5
Trifecta
2-5-4
2-5-4
$10
Payoff
Pick 3
11-11-2
11-11-2
$3
Pick 4
7-2/11-1/11-2
7-2/11-1/11-2
$154
Pick 5
1-7-2/11-1/11-2
1-7-2/11-1/11-2
$395
Daily Double
11-2
11-2
$2
Exacta
2-5
2-5
$8
Superfecta
2-5-4-3
2-5-4-3
$5
Trifecta
2-5-4
2-5-4
$10

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