Trainer Brad Cox looks for Knicks Go, convincing winner of the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in track-record time, to pick up where he left off when the speedy Maryland-bred competes in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Knicks Go, owned by Korea Racing Authority, went undefeated in all three of his starts last season after Cox took over training duties. He capped his short but sweet campaign by topping fellow Pegasus starter Jesus’ Team by 3 ½ lengths in the Dirt Mile. He set a track record of 1:33.85 in giving Cox one of a record-tying four victories during the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland.
Joel Rosario retains the mount on Knicks Go. They are listed as the 5-2 favorite after drawing post four in a full field of 12 for 1 1/8-mile Pegasus, the centerpiece of a 12-race card that begins at 11:40 a.m. ET and also will feature the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and five other graded stakes races. The Pegasus World Cup will be televised on NBC Saturday with a scheduled post time of 5:44 p.m.
Cox is one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award as leading trainer in North America. The awards will be presented virtually on Jan. 28. Tom Pedulla interviewed Cox on behalf of America’s Best Racing.
PEDULLA: How is Knicks Go training ahead of the Pegasus?
COX: Really well. His last three or four works at Fair Grounds have been phenomenal. I feel he’s every bit as good now as he was leading up to the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt) Mile. I feel confident that we’ll get a big race out of him.
PEDULLA: He was 3 for 3 after coming under your care. What was the key to those performances?
COX: I feel we kind of backed up a little bit with where he was racing. He was eligible for a two-other-than allowance. That’s where we started and he was able to do it the right way. Then, obviously, he got his break that he had to have due to a minor setback. Then we came back and hit that logical three-other-than (allowance). We were fortunate that it went. We had no idea he would run well enough of even giving us a thought of trying the Breeders’ Cup last year and he performed so well. The Breeders’ Cup was at Keeneland and he was fortunate enough to get in and he’s a horse that really likes Keeneland. We’re hoping he really likes Gulfstream on Saturday.
PEDULLA: The Pegasus is in its fifth year. Has it established itself as a significant race?
COX: When you look at horses like Arrogate, Gun Runner, City of Light, when you have the likes of those horses winning the race, you have a very good Grade 1 race. I would say it has more than established itself. It’s one of the top races in North America that we have on the dirt.
PEDULLA: Do you anticipate that Knicks Go will be the primary speed?
COX: We’re not going to do anything different. Joel is the jockey. As long as he gets away well, we’ll be up in the mix. He definitely should be mixing it up early.
PEDULLA: Now that you’ve had some time since the Breeders’ Cup, has the magnitude of winning four races sunk in?
COX: Yeah. When you’re in the heat of the moment, you’re just going from race to race. To look back, it was a fantastic weekend. I’m very proud of what our team was able to accomplish. Our horses showed up and ran their races. That’s basically what it came down to. It’s something, obviously, we’ll treasure forever. Hopefully, we’ll be at future Breeders’ Cup events and it’s something we can build off of.
PEDULLA: Your operation has grown dramatically. How challenging is that?
COX: I enjoy it. I enjoy racing. I like having horses in every day. There are always challenges in everything you do, but I love what I do. I have a lot of great people in place who assist me and they know their roles and they definitely put a lot in.
PEDULLA: How is (two-time Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff winner) Monomoy Girl progressing?
COX: Fine wine, I guess. She gets better with age. She had a fantastic work this past weekend. We are pointing her for the Bayakoa (Stakes) at Oaklawn Park (Feb. 15). That is our short-term goal as a lead-up to the Apple Blossom (Stakes April 17 at Oaklawn). We are very fortunate to have her around again. She is somewhat lightly raced for a 6-year-old. She is definitely not taking a step backward in her training in the mornings.
PEDULLA: Lastly, what would it mean to you if you could win the Eclipse?
COX: It would be a great accomplishment for our team. When we started doing this, we’ve always wanted to have the best horses we could possibly have and do our best with them. To win an award like that, it’s a trainer’s dream.