LOUISVILLE – In mid-stretch, 40-1 longshot Knicks Go was tenaciously battling to hang on to the lead in the stretch of the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
Then it was game over.
Game Winner put the finishing touches on an undefeated 2-year-old campaign by catching Knicks Go approaching the sixteenth pole and then registering a 2 1/4 lengths victory in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the fifth and final race in the opening day “Future Stars Friday” at the World Championships.
The 35th edition of the World Championships continues on Saturday with nine more Breeders’ Cup races, capped by the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The Breeders' Cup Mile, Distaff, Longines Turf and Breeders' Cup Classic will be aired on NBC beginning at 3:30 p.m.
The rest of the Breeders’ Cup stakes can be seen on NBCSN.
Owned by Gary and Mary and trained by Bob Baffert, Game Winner gave Baffert his fourth win in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile and his 15th victory at the World Championships.
Only D. Wayne Lukas, with 20, has more Breeders’ Cup wins among trainers.
“He’s special,” Baffert said about Game Winner. “The way he won and the way he did it was impressive. I was worried at the half-mile pole, but (jockey Joel Rosario) wasn’t. He knew he had a lot of horse. This is a huge win for me.”
The Wests won the 2013 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile with New Year’s Day, who was also trained by Baffert.
For Game Winner ($4), the even money favorite, the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile win came on the heels of Grade 1 wins in the American Pharoah Stakes and Del Mar Futurity.
He figures to be the fourth straight Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile to be named the champion 2-year-old male of 2018. Of the last eight recipients of that Eclipse Award, the prize has gone to the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner in six of the last eight years.
The final time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:43.67, a shade slower than the 1:43.62 Jaywalk needed to win the Tito's Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at the same distance.
Knicks Go, a 5 ½-length winner of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 70-1 odds, held on for second by a length over Signalman. Mr. Money took fourth.
By Bob Ehalt