Welcome to this week’s edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track. Each week in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past seven days, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.
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This week’s story centers on an unexpected development on the road to the Breeders’ Cup.
For all of the great champions and Grade 1 winners who prepare for the Breeders’ Cup with impressive victories in major stakes, every now and then you get the proverbial head scratcher that adds a ton of intrigue to the mix.
Knicks Go certainly provided the kind of spice that enlivens racing when he romped by 5 ½ lengths in the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last Saturday, going gate to wire at mammoth 70-1 odds for a trainer and jockey who recorded their first Grade 1 win.
As much as every horseman enters a race with a measure of optimism, no one could blame trainer Ben Colebrook if a trip to the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was not foremost on his mind when Knicks Go broke from the starting gate in the Breeders’ Futurity.
After all, Knicks Go’s career had unfolded much like some recent New York Knicks’ basketball seasons with some early success followed by disappointment.
In this case, Knicks Go, a son of laminitis survivor Paynter, had easily won his career debut by 3 ½ lengths at Ellis Park but then finished a well-beaten fifth in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga and was third on a synthetic surface in the Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park.
Colebrook took another stab at a stakes win in the Breeders’ Futurity, testing Knicks Go at two turns while adding the anti-bleeding medication Lasix and turning the reins of the 2-year-old over to jockey Albin Jimenez.
The moves worked to perfection.
Knicks Go sprinted away to a small early lead in the mile-and-a sixteenth stakes through moderate fractions, but then turning for home, when the closers seemed poised to pounce on him, Knicks Go morphed into the World Champion 1972-73 Knicks and pulled away in the stretch. He widened his lead to three lengths at the eighth pole and then added to the margin in the final yards as he secured a “Win and You’re In” free spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile down the road at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Nov 2.
“Just got lucky,” said Colebrook, an assistant to Christophe Clement for four years before starting his own stable in 2012. “The horse trains real well here so that’s kind of why we took a shot. He’s always breezed like a good horse. His first race was good and then he never got in a rhythm in his next two. Albin just stole it, really. They didn’t give him any respect and he got out there and just got to gallop. I could see (Knicks Go) on the backside, his ears were just going. I could tell he was going to run big. But I didn’t think he was going to run that big. It was just amazing.”
Equally amazing was the $142 that Knicks Go paid to win, showing that dreams can indeed come true despite long odds.
Owned by KRA Stud Farm, which is operated by the Korea Racing Authority, Knicks Go’s name has nothing to do with basketball as Daily Racing Form reported it stemmed from the term “nicks” in breeding.
Yet there was nothing confusing about what Knicks Go did in the Breeders’ Futurity. He gave the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile a dark horse candidate who can add some intrigue to the race that figures to showcase the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Knicks Go? Go figure.
The Also-Eligible List
Here are some of the other noteworthy stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry: