Korea Racing Authority's even-money favorite Knicks Go (Paynter) ran off from a strong field in Saturday's GI Whitney S. to earn an automatic spot in the starting gate for the GI Breeders' Cup Classic and reassert himself at the top of the handicap division. Last seen posting a 10 1/4-length bounce-back victory in the GIII Cornhusker H. July 2 after settling for fourth at odds-on in the GI Metropolitan H., the grey opened up some five or six lengths on his competition down the Saratoga backside through a half in :46.76. His rivals started to inch closer after six furlongs in 1:10.32, with champion filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) taking the first run at him, but Knicks Go swatted away that challenge while well out in the track and re-broke near the sixteenth pole to hold sway by 4 1/2 lengths. The streaking pair of Maxfield (Street Sense) and Met Mile hero Silver State (Hard Spun) completed the exacta and trifecta, respectively, while Swiss Skydiver was fourth.
A 70-1 winner of the 2018 GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity as a member of the Ben Colebrook barn, Knicks Go improved signficantly in 2020 after being transferred to Eclipse winner Brad Cox. His perfect three-start campaign was punctuated with a dominant win in the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and he added the lucrative GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. over this nine-furlong distance at Gulfstream in January. He faded to fourth after dueling with fellow American Charlatan (Speightstown) in the $20-million Saudi Cup in February, and also weakened surprisingly in the June 5 Met Mile, but earned a career-best 113 Beyer at Prairie Meadows back at nine furlongs.
WHITNEY S.-GI, $925,000, Saratoga, 8-7, 4yo/up, 1 1/8m, 1:47.70, ft.
1–KNICKS GO, 124, h, 5, by Paynter
1st Dam: Kosmo's Buddy (MSW, $298,095), by Outflanker
2nd Dam: Vaulted, by Allen's Prospect
3rd Dam: Aube d'Or, by Medaille d'Or
($40,000 Wlg '16 KEENOV; $87,000 Ylg '17 KEESEP). O-Korea
Racing Authority; B-Angie Moore (MD); T-Brad H. Cox; J-Joel
Rosario. $535,000. Lifetime Record: 22-8-3-1, $5,368,995.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk Nick
2–Maxfield, 122, c, 4, Street Sense–Velvety, by Bernardini.
O/B-Godolphin (KY); T-Brendan P. Walsh. $185,000.
3–Silver State, 124, c, 4, Hard Spun–Supreme, by Empire
Maker. ($450,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-Winchell Thoroughbreds
LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred
Holdings LLC (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen. $100,000.
Margins: 4HF, 1 3/4, 4HF. Odds: 1.05, 2.10, 5.60.
Also Ran: Swiss Skydiver, By My Standards. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.
“I was challenged a little bit going to the first turn, but [Swiss Skydiver] sent a little bit and I was just going to see what they were going to do and take it from there,” winning rider Joel Rosario said of his tactics. “I was a half-length in front going into the turn and I just decided to keep him going forward.
“The way he was moving he just skipped to the last quarter-pole. He loved what he was doing. He was very relaxed and going forward. I was really happy with the way he was going turning for home.”
Cox, who trains two other major Breeders' Cup Classic contenders in sophomores Essential Quality (Tapit) and Mandaloun (Into Mischief), said, “He ran huge. There's always a concern when you ship to Saratoga and this can be a demanding surface. I thought the race at Prairie Meadows really tuned him up well. He was well within himself and that was his big work for this race five weeks ago. He had three maintenance works at Ellis and he came in here a fresh and happy horse, ready to go.
“Maybe down the lane at the sixteenth pole I thought, 'Oh wow'. He's going to win this thing', and at that point I was thinking, 'What a horse. What a performance.' For him to go forty-six and change and spread out down the backside and get away from them and just kick on at the eighth pole and have to fight off some really, really good challengers. This was an incredibly deep group of horses and I'm very proud of the effort of my horse today.”
As for a path going forward, Cox said, “He's a very sound horse and he's happy. We wouldn't be here if he wasn't. We'll come up with a plan somehow. We'll just let the dust settle but it will probably be the Classic.”
Maxfield, a fellow Breeders' Futurity winner, was seven-for-eight coming into the Whitney, having most recently put GII Alysheba S. and GII Stephen Foster S. wins back to back.
“He ran his race. No excuse, really,” said his trainer Brendan Walsh. “I think the best horse won on the day. [Jockey] Jose [Ortiz] said he got to a point where he thought he was going to get him, but [Knicks Go] didn't stop and didn't come back to him. But he ran well. Second is no disgrace. We're always proud of this horse and there will be other days.”
Silver State had won six in a row coming into Saturday, including the GII Oaklawn H. two back going this distance.
“I had the best trip,” said that one's rider Ricardo Santana, Jr. “The winner was much the best. We were fortunate to be third; my horse ran his race. [Trainer] Steve [Asmussen] is happy, the owner is happy, and I'm happy, and that is the most important thing.”
Knicks Go stands alone as the only Grade I winner to date for Paynter, who has four graded winners among his 18 black-type winners. The breeding of Knicks Go has been well-documented, with his dam's last two matings being significantly upgraded: Kosmo's Buddy has a yearling filly by Justify and a filly by Ghostzapper of this year. Ghostzapper, like Paynter, is a son of Awesome Again.
Knicks Go, the fifth Maryland-bred generation of his family, is one of 10 stakes winners out of daughters of the Danzig sire Outflanker. The Moore family's Green Mount Farm claimed the two-time stakes winner Kosmo's Buddy for $40,000 in her penultimate career start at Monmouth in 2010. She RNA'd for $195,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale.