Knicks Go posts $142 upset in Breeders' Futurity
Courtesy of Nicole Russo of DRF.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. – On paper, the Grade 1, $500,000 Breeders' Futurity on Saturday at Keeneland appeared wide open, even more so after Hopeful Stakes winner Mind Control, the morning-line favorite, was scratched after being treated for a temperature.
But then, Knicks Go took a wide-open race and blew it wide, wide open, blitzing the field for a 5 1/2-length victory and returning $142 as the longest shot on the board.
Knicks Go has now earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, and also picked up 10 qualifying points toward the field for next year's Kentucky Derby. In the process, he gave trainer Ben Colebrook and jockey Albin Jimenez both their first career Grade 1 wins.
“That’s pretty special,” Colebrook said, his voice wavering with emotion. “Didn't really expect it today. I thought the horse would run good, but he exceeded all our expectations, for sure.”
Knicks Go, from the second crop of Paynter, was purchased by the Korea Racing Authority at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale for $87,000 – a sizeable amount for that organization. Korean racing interests have placed a premium on American bloodlines to build the racing and breeding industries in their country, where racing is focused primarily on dirt surfaces due to the weather. Knicks Go races in the name of KRA Stud Farm, which also campaigns Grade 1-placed Mr. Crow.
“[The KRA] runs all the racetracks in Korea, and this was an experiment to try to make a stallion in America,” Colebrook explained, adding that the colt’s name is not a reference to the New York Knicks, but rather, a riff on the name of a genetic “nicking” program used to select horses.
Knicks Go won his debut on the Fourth of July at Ellis Park, but then was fifth in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga in his only prior try in graded stakes company. He more recently finished third in the Arlington-Washington Futurity on a synthetic track – and then it was off to Grade 1 company.
“The horse trains real well here, so that’s kind of why we took a shot,” Colebrook said. “He’s always breezed like a good horse. His first race was good, and then he never got in a rhythm in his next two.”
In the Futurity, Knicks Go and Jimenez were away alertly from post 7 in the bulky field of 13 juveniles.
“[Colebrook] told me to be close to the lead,” Jimenez said. “He broke sharp, so I kept him in there.”
They quickly established command through the opening quarter of 23.67 seconds and a half in 47.59 seconds, with Sanford winner Sombeyay tracking a length back in second.
“Down the backside, I knew we were in pretty good shape when his ears were kind of flickering,” Colebrook said. “I thought it was gonna take a big-time closer to catch him.”
Knicks Go began edging away around the far turn and opened up in upper stretch. The outcome was never in doubt from there, as he continued drawing away to the improbable result. He stopped the clock in 1:44.23 for the 1 1/16 miles on a track rated fast.
Another longshot, Signalman, came on for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of third choice Standard Deviation, who rallied from 11th after the half. They were followed, in order, by Sombeyay, Derby Date, Mr. Ankeny, Fluminense, Everfast, Tobacco Road, Moonster, Borracho, Dream Maker, and Unionizer. Dream Maker was sent away as the favorite, but raced near the back of the pack throughout after an awkward break from the starting gate.
“When we broke, they kinda came in pretty quick on us, and we clipped heels actually at the beginning,” jockey Julien Leparoux said. “So, then we’re last. My horse never got to relax. He was keen the whole race and wanted to run, but from the loss of the position at the beginning, we just lost it there.”
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