Can Knicks Go Carry His Speed in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic?
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Courtesy of TVG
A superb edition of the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) is on tap November 6, and the prospective field is a list of one sparkling star after the other. Leading the group is Knicks Go, who will try to get loose on the lead at Del Mar and run his rivals off their feet. It is a race brimming with speed horses, so Knicks Go getting to the front without receiving too much pressure is paramount.
Will the gray horse be able to carry his speed the full 10-furlong distance? He has never even attempted the distance, and would have been a shoo-in if he tried to defend his title in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) earlier on the card. But after several wins at nine furlongs, trainer Brad Cox is opting to stretch out the son of Paynter in the Classic.
Based on pedigree, Knicks Go could go either way. He is a son of Paynter, who did run second in an edition of the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (G1) diminished by the scratch of I’ll Have Another, but dam Kosmo’s Buddy was a sprinter, albeit a very quick and successful one.
Kosmo’s Buddy won five of 37 starts with 22 top-three finishes. Her stakes wins include the Maryland Million Turf Sprint and the Crank It Up Stakes over 5 ½ furlongs. She is a daughter of the Danzig stallion Outflanker, which suggests even more speed. Kosmo’s Buddy has had four winners from five to race—taking Knicks Go out of the picture—and you have a smattering of wins at a mile or less, plus one victory at 1 1/16 miles.
Paynter, on the other hand, is brimming with Classic pedigree. His sire, Awesome Again, defeated an all-time brilliant group in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), where the likes of Silver Charm, Swain, and Skip Away toiled behind him. Paynter’s dam Tizso is a full sister to the mighty Tiznow, who remains the only horse to win two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2000 and 2001. Aside from Paynter, Tizso’s progeny includes a host of sprinter/short route types, such as Kalookan Queen Handicap winner Tizakitty, and Tiz West, who did take the graded Cinema Handicap at nine furlongs.
However, pedigree may not matter when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. There aren’t too many 10 furlong races there, but in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Gun Runner went to the lead and ultimately cruised home more than two lengths in front. The 2021 TVG Pacific Classic winner, Tripoli, sat just off the lead before drawing away, and Maximum Security led every step in the same race in 2020. Speed at Del Mar carries, giving Knicks Go a very good chance as the race’s likely favorite, with Breeders’ Cup Classic odds somewhere around 5-2.
But he is far from the only Breeders’ Cup Classic contender. The second choice in the race around 7-2 should be his stablemate, Essential Quality. The top sophomore this year, Essential Quality did win last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. Since then, the son of Tapit has added the Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers Stakes (G1), Jim Dandy (G2), and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2). He was fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) as the favorite.
Medina Spirit is the horse that defeated him that day. After running second in both of his prep races, the Bob Baffert-trainee won the Kentucky Derby (G1), although that victory is now under scrutiny for testing positive for allegedly a skin rash cream. Regardless, Medina Spirit is currently the Kentucky Derby winner and has since come back to absolutely roll in both the Shared Belief Stakes—at Del Mar—and the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita in his first try against older runners. He will likely go off between 4-1 and 6-1.
Hot Rod Charlie, who will also be around 5-1, is yet another top three-year-old, and one who has had a star-crossed season. The Doug O’Neill-trainee was third in the Kentucky Derby, then second in the Belmont Stakes after setting a blistering pace and giving Essential Quality all he could handle in the lane. He came back to win the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1), but was disqualified for interference. Finally, Hot Rod Charlie put it all together to win the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx last out.
For the older horses, Tripoli will be back at Del Mar for the Classic. He will be a big longshot at 20-1 or higher, but he does like the track, has a win over the trip, and trainer John Sadler won the Classic in 2018 with Accelerate.
Art Collector was one of the top sophomores of 2020, and since moving to the barn of trainer Bill Mott has strung together three consecutive stakes wins. He most recently defeated Maxfield, Dr. Post, and Code of Honor in the Grade 1 Woodward by leading every step and simply being too quick for them to catch. He does need a new rider for the Breeders’ Cup Classic as jockey Luis Saez will stick with Essential Quality.
Max Player should not be overlooked in this spot. The Steve Asmussen trainee won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga last out, and comes from off the pace. With Knicks Go, Medina Spirit, Art Collector, Tripoli, and Hot Rod Charlie all wanting to be on or near the lead, that could benefit a horse like Max Player who will be rallying in the lane.
With a field this deep, just one thing is sure: carefully study the race before you make your Breeders’ Cup Classic picks!
- November 23, 2021
Godolphin Wins Fourth Consecutive John Deere Award as Outstanding Breeder of the 2021 Breeders' Cup World Championships and Challenge Series
Strengthened by victories from homebreds Modern Games (IRE), Space Blues (IRE) and Yibir (GB), for the fourth consecutive year Godolphin has won the John Deere Award, honoring the outstanding breeder of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships and the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
- November 18, 2021
Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Knicks Go departed Taylor Made Farm Nov. 17 for Brad Cox’s barn at Churchill Downs in Louisville to ready for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park.
- November 6, 2021
Total all-sources common-pool handle for the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club was $182,908,409, a new record for the two-day event.