Knicks Go
Knicks Go won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup/CSM.

Knicks Go never gave ’em a chance.

‘Knicks Go, a four-year-old son of Paynter, sped to the lead, threw down unforgiving fractions, and drew away in the lane to win the Grade 1 “Big Ass Fans” Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by over three lengths. In the process, he set a Keeneland track record for the one-mile distance.

It was Knicks Go’s second graded stakes victory; both have come in Grade 1 events at Keeneland Race Course. Two years ago, Knicks Go scored a stunning upset in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity over the same strip; and he followed that up with a runner-up effort, at 40-1, in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

But while in 2018, Knicks Go was a distinct outsider and a major surprise when he ran second, today he entered with two consecutive wins and went off the 9-5 post time favorite.

The betting public knew what it was looking at.

Under Joel Rosario, Knicks Go grabbed the early advantage and played “catch me if you can.” He led by a length after a quarter-mile in 21.98 seconds and just a half-length after a half in 44.40 seconds. Complexity, the morning line favorite, was second at both calls and revved up a bold challenge, pulling within a head after three-quarters in 1:08.25.

“It looked like he was going easy,” Rosario said. “I didn’t know how fast he was going. He went 44 (seconds for a half mile). That was very fast.”

But as quickly as Complexity mounted his bid, Knicks Go repelled it. Complexity faded to fourth, while Knicks Go drew away to win by 3-1/2 lengths in 1:33.85 for one mile. Knicks Go’s record-setting performance was the third dirt track record of the day, following Nashville’s track record 1:07.89 for six furlongs and Gamine’s record 1:20.20 for seven.

“He was able to hang in there and have a kick at the eighth pole,” Rosario said. “It was a very good performance.”

Jesus’ Team rallied into second a nose ahead of Sharp Samurai, who was a half-length in front of Complexity.

“Joel did a fantastic job of asking him to be forwardly placed and he responded well,” winning trainer Brad Cox said. “They went very quick and he was able to keep going. This is a good race for him with the short stretch. A lot of things were in his favor today.”

Knicks Go, owned by Korea Racing Authority, was trained by Ben Colebrook during his juvenile and sophomore seasons. But after starting his career with two wins in four starts, Knicks Go lost 10 consecutive races, capped by a dismal 10th place finish in a turf stake in November 2019.

He was transferred to the Cox barn following that race, made one start in February, and won by seven lengths while earning a career-best Beyer of 100. He topped that in his next start — nearly eight months later — by winning a Keeneland allowance by 10 lengths with a 107 Beyer fig.

“He’s very fast and he loves Keeneland, as well,” Cox said. “We picked the horse up last winter and he really loves it here… He’s a very aggressive horse, he loves to train. He’s just a very classy horse.”

Knicks Go, a colt by Paynter, was bred in Maryland by Angie Moore and raised in those early days at her and her daughter Sabrina’s GreenMount Farm. He is out of the Outflanker mare Kosmo’s Buddy, who herself was a multiple stakes winner, albeit in turf sprints. The Moores sold him for $40,000 via Bill Reightler’s consignment at the Keeneland November mixed sale.

Knicks Go now has five wins from 17 career starts. The winner’s shared pushes his career earnings past the $1.3 million mark.