Knicks Go kept on rolling Saturday, improving to 4-for-4 for trainer Brad Cox with a comfortable victory in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
The 5-year-old son of Paynter entered off a dominant win in November at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and made the Pegasus the third Grade 1 score of his career. Knicks Go covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89, returning $4.60 as the 6-5 favourite.
“Great horses do great things,” Cox, an Eclipse Award finalist for 2020’s top trainer, told NBC. “He just did something great.”
Knicks Go went to the lead under jockey Joel Rosario, as expected, but long shot Last Judgment hustled him through the early fractions. He went 22.90, 46.16 and 1:09.91 through the first six furlongs.
Turning for home, Knicks Go held a length lead and showed no signs of slowing down. He drew off from there, geared down in the final stages by Rosario.
“When a horse is up front and they’re going that quick, you’re always a little bit concerned,” Cox said. “Joel, he has a lot of confidence in the horse and the horse has confidence in him, so it worked out great. I’m very proud of him.”
Jesus’ Team crossed second behind Knicks Go, just as he did in the Dirt Mile. Finishing third was Independence Hall.
The Pegasus World Cup marked Knicks Go’s first try at 1 1/8 miles and the 5-year-old proved he had no problem with that distance. Knicks Go could try nine furlongs again next month in the $20 million Saudi Cup, to which he received an automatic berth with his Pegasus victory.
“I think if he gets the right setup, I think he can go a mile and a quarter,” Cox said. “Paynter, an Awesome Again line, it’s a mile-and-a-quarter pedigree.”
Korea Racing Authority campaigns the Maryland-bred Knicks Go, who now sports a career ledger of 18: 6-3-1. Four of those victories have come since he joined Cox’s barn for the 2020 season.
Ben Colebrook formerly conditioned Knicks Go, who upset Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in October 2018 at 70-1 odds. He and Code of Honor were the only two multiple Grade 1 winners entering the 2021 Pegasus, which lost star power due to Tiz the Law’s sudden retirement and trainer Bob Baffert’s decision to train Charlatan up to the Saudi Cup.
For Jesus’ Team, Saturday’s runner-up effort marked another board-hitting performance in a high-profile race. The Jose D’Angelo trainee ran third behind Swiss Skydiver and Authentic last October at Pimlico in the Preakness Stakes, then was second as a 63-1 shot in the Dirt Mile.
Jesus’ Team entered the Pegasus off a Gulfstream victory last month in the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes. The 4-year-old went off Saturday an 11-1 shot under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Another 4-year-old, Independence Hall, juiced up the trifecta by running third Saturday as a 27-1 long shot for trainer Michael McCarthy, who saddled City of Light to 2019 Pegasus glory.
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