Knicks Go
Knicks Go was much the best in the Pegasus World Cup.

They couldn’t make Knicks Go work hard early, and they couldn’t catch him late, and the Maryland-bred romped to a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s $3 million, Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

The win, Knicks Go’s fourth in a row and third career Grade 1 triumph, raises the question: is he the best American dirt horse in training?

It’s a question to which we may get an answer. Jun Park, the American representative of the Korea Racing Authority, which owns Knicks Go, said after the Pegasus that he expected to keep the son of Paynter in training this year.

With Joel Rosario in the irons, as he was for Knicks Go’s tour de force victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November, Knicks Go bounded out of the gate on top and never looked back. He was pressed through the opening portion of the race by longshot Last Judgment, but though the early pace was solid, Knicks Go always looked like he had the measure of his rival.

The opening quarter-mile went by in 22 4/5 seconds, and the half took 46 seconds flat. As the field passed the half-mile pole, Last Judgment began to tire, while Tax, three wide, and Independence Hall, along the rail, crept closer.

But Rosario’s mount still had plenty in the tank. As quickly as those rivals seemed to pose a threat, Knicks Go disposed of them, reaching the quarter-pole more than three lengths in front. From there, it was merely a matter of keeping Knicks Go focused. He was never threatened in the lane and completed the nine furlongs in 1:47.89 over a fast main track.

“An outstanding performance,” Jun Park said. “We appreciate all the team.”

Sent off the 6-5 favorite, Knicks Go returned $4.60 for the win. Jesus’ Team rallied from well back into second, narrowly edging Independence Hall, who held third. The exacta returned $21.50 for a buck.

Knicks Go has now won four straight races since being switched into trainer Brad Cox’s barn and six of 18 overall. The winner’s share pushes his career earnings past the $3 million mark.

Knicks Go showed great promise as a two-year-old, winning the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and then running second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But that runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup was also the start of a 10-race losing streak that consumed his entire three-year-old season and didn’t end until his first try in Cox’s stable, in February of this year.

Knicks Go – the name is actually pronounced “K-Nicks” in honor of the K-Nicks team at the Korea Racing Authority that picked the horse out – was bred in Maryland by Angie Moore. A Maryland-bred, he’s out of the Maryland-bred Outflanker mare Kosmo’s Buddy, a multiple stakes winner whose best efforts came sprinting on the turf.

Knicks Go was named Top Midlantic-bred of 2020 January 21.

The other Maryland-bred in the field, Harpers First Ride, was never much involved, racing in mid-pack early, tiring, and being eased while finishing last of the 12 runners.

One race earlier, in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, favored Colonel Liam was up late for the win, narrowly besting the Virginia-bred Largent. Both are trained by Todd Pletcher.