Knicks Go Crowned World's Best Racehorse

Knicks Go winning the Breeders' Cup Classic | Horsephotos

Last year's GI Breeders' Cup Classic winner Knicks Go (Paynter) was named the Longines World's Best Racehorse of 2021 during a virtual ceremony of the Longines World Racing Awards presented from the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket, England on Tuesday. Also during the ceremony, the G1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe–won last year by Torquator Tasso (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger})–was announced as the Longines World's Best Horse Race of 2021, and Ryan Moore was celebrated as the Longines World's Best Jockey.

The 6-year-old Knicks Go earned a rating of 129 for his Classic win at Del Mar, and is widely expected to be named the U.S. Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards on Feb. 10 off a campaign that also included victories in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S., the GI Whitney S., the GIII Cornhusker H. and the GIII Lukas Classic S. Knicks Go, who is trained by Brad Cox and owned by the Korea Racing Authority, is set to defend his title in the Pegasus this weekend before heading to stud at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.

“He's got a ton of class and he's a very intelligent horse,” said trainer Brad Cox during the virtual ceremony. “He's been at this for a few years now. Some of the things that set Knicks Go apart from other very good horses is definitely his ability to shut off things mentally. He's aggressive training, but when he's finished training he takes a deep breath and relaxes. He's gotten better as he's gotten older mentally and I think that's one thing that really benefitted him this past season.

“Going into the Classic we had a lot of confidence in him. He was training really well and he obviously had a fantastic start to the season. We had a little bit of a setback with a race in New York, the [GI] Met Mile [when fourth], but then he really started capping off a nice string of races. Obviously his second half of the year was fantastic with big wins at Saratoga and Churchill, and ultimately the Breeders' Cup Classic was the race that put him in a position to become the top-rated horse in the world.

“He had a fantastic year and this was the cherry on the top with regards to what he could accomplish in 2021. It's a very prestigious honour to be mentioned along with the past recipients of this award, champions throughout the world, and to be at the top is just a true honour and something we're very proud of.”

A trio of European-trained runners were joint-second with ratings of 127. Godolphin's G1 Derby winner Adayar (GB) (Frankel {GB}) earned that mark with his win over older horses in the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S.-the Charlie Appleby-trained colt was the first 3-year-old to record the Derby/King George double since his grandsire Galileo 20 years earlier.

“It was a great performance from a great horse, and the horse is very straightforward to ride,” said jockey William Buick. “He won at Epsom, he won the King George against older horses. He's won in big fields, small fields, slow ground, faster ground, so he's very versatile. He is everything a good horse should be.”

Adayar, who stays in training at four, was the joint highest-rated 3-year-old in the world last year with the Coolmore partners' St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}), who went unbeaten in four starts on the season encompassing the French Classic double of the G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains and the G1 Prix du Jockey Club, the G1 Coral Eclipse S. and the G1 Irish Champion S. to be named Europe's Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt. St Mark's Basilica, who covers his first book at Coolmore this season for €65,000, earned his rating of 127 in the Coral-Eclipse.

St Mark's Basilica was a tremendous horse,” said jockey Ryan Moore. “He'd relax so well in his races and he'd just do whatever you wanted him to do; whatever you asked him to do, he'd do it straight away. So he was very unique, and the turn of foot was something exceptional. He was an excellent racehorse.”

Adayar and St Mark's Basilica were joined at 127 by Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}), who compiled an intercontinental Group 1 campaign. The 2020 G1 Prix du Jockey Club winner won the Saudi Cup before it achieved Group 1 status, as well as the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic in the Gulf region. He returned to Europe to hit the board behind St Mark's Basilica and Adayar in the Coral-Eclipse and the King George before romping by six lengths in the G1 Juddmonte International, where he earned a rating of 127. Mishriff is preparing to defend his Saudi Cup title next month.

Contrail (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) flew the flag for Japan last year, returning from his Triple Crown-winning campaign of 2020 to scoop the G1 Japan Cup, earning a rating of 126. Contrail's compatriot and G1 Tenno Sho Autumn conqueror Efforia (Jpn) (Epiphaneia {Jpn}) was also a worthy representative for Japan, earning marks of 124 for that victory and also for his win in the G1 Arima Kinen. Both of those were victories over older horses for the then-3-year-old. A rating of 124 was also earned by American runners Flightline (Tapit), Life Is Good (Into Mischief) and Medina Spirit (Protonico), as well as Australian sprinter Nature Strip (Aus) (Nicconi {Aus}).

Four runners from three different nations are tied on a rating of 125. Shadwell's Baaeed (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) burst onto the scene in June last year as a 3-year-old and eventually went unbeaten through a six-start campaign, culminating in wins in the G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp and the G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. The William Haggas-trained Baaeed earned a 125 for his win in the QEII, in which he beat the subsequent European champion older horse Palace Pier (GB) (Kingman {GB}). That was the John and Thady Gosden trainee's lone defeat during a season in which he took the G1 Lockinge S. (125 rating), G1 Queen Anne S. and G1 Prix Jacques le Marois. Palace Pier stands this season at Dalham Hall Stud for £55,000.

Torquator Tasso also achieved a mark of 125 for his victory in last year's world's highest-rated race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, in which he defeated a star-studded field at odds of 72-1. Torquator Tasso, owned by Gestut Auenquelle and trained by Marcel Weiss, had previously bested the G1 Deutsches Derby winner Sisfahan (Fr) (Isfahan {Ger}) in the G1 Grosser Preis von Baden, and was Germany's highest-rated horse last year.

Golden Sixty (Aus) proved the highest-rated Hong Kong-trained runner of 2021, earning a rating of 125 for his title defense of the G1 Hong Kong Mile. The 6-year-old Golden Sixty had a 16-race win streak snapped on the weekend when he was second in Sha Tin's G1 Stewards' Cup.

ParisLongchamp's 'Arc' was named the World's Best Horse Race for the fifth time in its 100th running. The World's Best Horse Race is based on annual race ratings, which are calculated from the first four finishers, and in the Arc last year those were Group 1 winners Torquator Tasso, Tarnawa (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), Hurricane Lane (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and Adayar. The Arc achieved a rating of 124.75, and was followed by the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic (124.5) and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Qipco S. (123.5).

Jockey Rene Piechulek, who rode Torquator Tasso to victory on the first Sunday in October, talked the audience through his ride in the Arc during the ceremony.

“We jumped off and I had a good position behind Adayar so I stayed behind him,” he said. “I spoke with the trainer before and he said, 'we have to run on the outside so we don't go between horses' and that's why I was happy with my position. William Buick [on Adayar] took the lead after a slow race and I said 'ok, I can't follow him, I have to stay where I've been'. I was happy with my position going around the last bend and I was waiting for somebody to try to pass me. [Deep Bond] was the first one to try this so I waited until he was close to me, and when he was close to me I started to push. When I switched the whip to the left side he started to run very fast. The last 200 metres I thought, 'I'm going to earn money', but I didn't think I could win the race. In the last 100 metres, I knew I was going to win.

“It was an amazing race and I still can't believe it. It's the dream of every good jockey.”

Ryan Moore was announced in December as the Longines World's Best Jockey of 2021, an award decided based on performance in the 100 highest-rated Group and Grade I races in the world. Moore, who was also the world's best jockey in 2014 and 2016, said, “I've always felt throughout my time riding that racing was a global sport and the most important thing was to be competitive all around the world, then you know where you are.

“You only win these awards because of the horses you're riding and I'm very lucky I get to ride some of the best horses for some of the best owners all around the world. You can't do anything without the horse, so it's only because of them.”

The Longines World Racing Awards are co-organized by Swiss watch brand Longines and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. Click here for the complete list of ranked horses and the top 100 Group 1 races for 2021.

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