From a National Thoroughbred Racing Association release
Last month, Brad Cox earned his first Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer as a result of his barn’s superior exploits during the 2020 season. The Louisville native looks primed to continue that stellar run this year as his trainees Knicks Go and reigning juvenile male champion Essential Quality rank as the top vote getters in the first editions of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Top Thoroughbred Poll and NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Thoroughbred Poll, respectively, for 2021.
Knicks Go captured the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in track-record setting fashion last November to cap off his 2020 campaign. The 5-year-old son of Paynter further signaled his presence as a leader in the handicap division when he began 2021 with a triumph in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes on January 23, an effort that helped earn him 27 first-place votes and 341 total points.
Knicks Go is slated to be among the favorites for Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup where he is set to face fellow Grade 1 winner Charlatan, who notched 4 first-place votes and 250 points to rank second on the year’s first Top Thoroughbred Poll.
Godolphin’s unbeaten homebred Maxfield, winner of the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes at Fair Grounds on February 13, ranks third with 1 first-place vote and 232 points while champion distaffer Monomoy Girl (3 first-place votes, 223 points) sits fourth.
Colonel Liam, who captured the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes on January 23, is fifth with 146 points followed by champion filly Swiss Skydiver (124 points), Jesus’ Team (102), and champion female sprinter Gamine (72).
Channel Maker, the champion turf male of 2020, is ninth with 56 points while champion male sprinter Whitmore (55 points) rounds out the top ten.
Godolphin homebred Essential Quality went unbeaten in three starts during his 2-year-old campaign, including victories in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Fittingly, the son of Tapit heads up the year’s first Top Three-Year-Old Poll with 24 first-place votes and 325 points.
The Bob Baffert-trained Life Is Good ranks second with 5 first-place votes and 272 points while Mandaloun, winner of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes this past weekend, is third with 4 first-place votes and 212 points.
Holy Bull Stakes winner Greatest Honour (1 first-place vote, 204 points) sits fourth with Medina Spirit (176 points) in fifth. Caddo River (1 first-place vote, 137 points) ranks sixth followed by Concert Tour (85 points), Keepmeinmind (84), and Jackie’s Warrior (66). Risk Taking (63 points) completes the top ten.
The NTRA Top Thoroughbred polls are the sport’s most comprehensive surveys of experts. Every week eligible journalists and broadcasters cast votes for their top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. All horses that have raced in the U.S., are in training in the U.S., or are known to be pointing to a major event in the U.S. are eligible for the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Voting in the Top Three-Year-Old Thoroughbred Poll concludes following the Belmont Stakes on June 5 and the Top Thoroughbred Poll is scheduled to be conducted through November 6.