Knicks GB win the Whitney

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Going into Saturday’s 94th Whitney Stakes, everyone knew it.

Knicks Go, trainer Brad Cox’s gray barn comet, was the fastest of five horses entered in the $1 million Class I race, one of the nation’s most prestigious for older horses.

Cox knew it. Joel Rosario, the jockey who rode Knicks Go, knew it. The other four trainers and jockeys in the race knew it. The crowd of 38,525 – a season high at Saratoga Racetrack – well, they knew that too. They made Knicks Go the tied favorite in the 1 1/8 mile race.

It’s no surprise, then, that Knicks Go skipped the stretch at the Spa and won the Whitney by 4 1/2 lengths. It seemed he did it with relative ease. Cox, who won the Jim Dandy last week with fellow grey, Essential Quality, was confident his horse would be tough to put down in the Whitney against a group of accomplished rivals.

How right he was.

“Down the aisle, at the sixteenth post, I thought, ‘Oh wow! He’s gonna win this thing,” Cox said in the winner’s circle after Knicks Go received its cover of pink roses and the pictures were all taken. “At that point, I was like, ‘What a horse ! What a performance.


The Whitney was a “Win and You’re In” race for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in Del Mar on Nov. 6. Knicks Go now has automatic, free entry into the race. Cox said the race will definitely be under consideration, but he will have to figure out how he will get the horse there.

This run was billed as a showdown between Knicks Go and Maxfield, the 2-1 second pick and winner of seven of eight career starts. There were also support players in this one in the presence of filly Swiss Skydiver, who beat the boys last year in the Preakness, and Silver State, who came into play on a six-game winning streak. The other horse entered, By My Standards, finished second to Whitney last year.

They all had degrees. One thing they didn’t have was what Knicks Go did. Speed. Lots of it.

As soon as the starting gate opened, Knicks Go and Rosario raced to the lead. Short to the clubhouse bend, Swiss Skydiver and Jose Ortiz went with Knicks Go, but Rosario and his speedy steed quickly took a four-length lead after a quarter mile.

After the 23.42-second quarter mile, Knicks Go went through the half in 46.76 and he was rolling.

” A monster ! My God ! said Kenny McPeek, the trainer of Swiss Skydiver. “As fast as he went early and he kept going. Hats off. He’s a very good horse.”

When Knicks Go reached the top of the stretch, their lead was beginning to shrink and for a moment the whispers along the rail were maybe, just maybe, there was going to be an emotional workout. Swiss Skydiver moved less than a length and a half. Silver State was right behind her, and Maxfield was about to make a move.

There would be no Whitney drama. Knicks Go lit the back burners and left the rest in their rearview mirror.

“He loved what he was doing,” Rosario said. “He was very relaxed and moving forward. I was really happy with the way he was heading home.”

“He started on eighth pole and fought some really, really good challengers,” Cox said. “It was an incredibly deep group of horses and I’m proud of the effort.”

Maxfield was closest to Knicks GB at the end, but there would be no catching him.

Silver State finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Maxfield and 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Swiss Skydiver. By my standards was fifth.

“Jose (jockey Ortiz) said he got to a point where he thought he was going to get it, but (Knicks Go) didn’t stop,” Maxfield trainer Brendan Walsh said. . “Secondly, it’s no shame. We are still proud of this horse and there will be other days.”

The final time was 1:47.70 in the fast lane.

Knicks Go, a 5-year-old, Maryland-raised son of Paynter, has won eight of 22 career starts, including six since joining Cox’s barn in February 2020. It was also the sixth win run of the colt around two laps. The combined margin of victory in those races, which included the $3 million Pegasus World Cup and last year’s Breeders’ Cup dirt mile, is 38 3/4 lengths.

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