Knicks Go named Horse of the Year

Knicks Go
Knicks Go was a blur in winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Photo Scott Serio/Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced this evening that Knicks Go, who captured both the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), was voted the 2021 Horse of the Year at the conclusion of 51st Eclipse Awards ceremony, presented by 1/ST Racing and FanDuel Racing Group, at Santa Anita Park.

The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing, are voted on by the NTRA, consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, Daily Racing Form (DRF), and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

Owned by Korea Racing Authority and trained by Brad Cox, Knicks Go received 228 votes out of a possible 235 first-place votes for Horse of the Year. Knicks Go, a Maryland-bred gray son of Paynter, was also voted Champion Older Dirt Male. Racing as a 5-year-old in 2021, Knicks Go won five races in seven starts, which also included victories in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3), the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, and the Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs. He culminated his season with a front-running 2 ¾-length victory in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar in November.

Knicks Go, out of the Outflanker mare Kosmo’s Buddy, was bred in Maryland by Angie Moore. He was one of two Maryland-breds to be finalists for Eclipse Awards. Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West, bred in Maryland by Katy Voss and the late Bob Manfuso, also was a finalist but finished second to champion Jackie’s Warrior.

In addition, two riders with connections to the Mid-Atlantic finished second and third in the running for top apprentice, won by Jessica Pyfer. John Hiraldo and Charlie Marquez, riders who made a mark especially in Maryland and Delaware, were second in third in that category, respectively.

Knicks Go was joined by stablemate Essential Quality, the Champion 3-Year-Old Male, and Letruska, the Champion Older Female, as the finalists for Horse of the Year, Knicks Go led all North American horses in total earnings last year with $7,324,140. He was retired to stud following a second-place finish in this year’s Pegasus World Cup. Cox was honored for the second consecutive year with the Outstanding Trainer Eclipse, and Joel Rosario, who rode Knicks Go in all of his races last year, won the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse Award.

Cox, a Louisville, Kentucky native, established a North American earnings record for trainers last year with $31,001,731 in total earnings. He won 269 races, including 30 graded stakes. In addition to Knicks Go, the Cox-trained Essential Quality had a big season leading the 3-Year-Old Males. Owned and bred by Godolphin, which swept the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder Eclipse Awards, Essential Quality won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the Belmont Stakes (G2) and the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) last year. Essential Quality also won last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male trophy and becomes just the sixth horse to win both honors since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971.

The full list of winners:

  • Two-Year-Old Male: Corniche
  • Two-Year-Old Filly: Echo Zulu
  • Three-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality
  • Three-Year-Old Filly: Malathaat
  • Older Dirt Male: Knicks Go (5)
  • Older Dirt Female: Letruska (5)
  • Male Sprinter: Jackie’s Warrior (3)
  • Female Sprinter: Ce Ce (5)
  • Male Turf Horse: Yibir (GB) (3)
  • Female Turf Horse: Loves Only You (JPN) (5)
  • Steeplechase Horse: The Mean Queen (IRE) (5)
  • Owner: Godolphin LLC
  • Breeder: Godolphin LLC
  • Jockey: Joel Rosario
  • Apprentice Jockey: Jessica Pyfer
  • Trainer: Brad Cox
  • Horse of the Year: Knicks Go (5)