By Guy Martin
Knicks Go taught a master-class in wire-to-wire dominance in the $3-million 2021 Pegasus World Cup on Saturday at Gulfstream, breaking well, taking the lead in the short run to the first turn, and grinding it out to the top of the stretch, where he actually spun away to take the lion's share of the purse by three-and-a-half lengths, with Joel Rosario up. Going off at 6-5, with veteran Joel Rosario up, he paid $4.60 to win.
A sleeper at 11-1, Jesus' Team, with Irad Ortiz up, gamely sneaked his way up toward the front on the stretch, and brought on a bracing bit of a stretch duel as he nosed out long shot Independence Hall for place. But Ortiz and Jesus' Team found themselves unable to run down a frisky Knicks Go, who was, by this point, breezing away from the fray seconds from clinching his win. Going off at a stiff 25-1, Independence Hall showed, and paid a flat $10.00. Sleepy Eyes Todd ran fourth.
But the day belonged to Knicks Go, who handily, almost as if he were taunting them, ran his challengers ragged and disproved his two-legged nay-sayers who had doubted he could, given his front-running style, hold the distance. His superb demonstration of athletic prowess, with a modicum of fans in attendance at Gulfstream, boded well for the return of the sport and delivered Knicks Go trainer Brad Cox a measure of vindication as well. Since coming into the Cox stable, it is fair to say, Knicks Go has found himself and his stride. The victor's 60% cut of the $3 million Pegasus purse will do nicely as confirmation that the horse can, in fact, run decisively longer than a mile.
Second-favorite Code of Honor was laying very nearly last into the first turn and began to move through the traffic on the backstretch. Apparently, his vaunted patience got the better of him, as he seemed to wait too long to make his move at the top of the far turn. At this point Knicks Go was taking no prisoners and had increased his lead. Proving that he had gas in the tank, Knicks Go fired offf a couple of big strides and actually increased his lead again as, behind him, Code Of Honor faded and Jesus' Team threaded himself up to place.
It was Knicks Go's fourth consecutive win since his move to Brad Cox's barn, a sterling recommendation of the trainer's work. But in its very dominance, the victory does intensify for Knicks Go's connections, who had planned to race the gray through 2021, the option of retiring immediately to stud. Trainer Cox has been guardedly frank before the race about the eventuality that, should Knicks Go bring the victory home, various industry powerhouses would be roiling for his services as a stallion.
"It’s not been around a long time, but obviously with the likes of Gun Runner, Arrogate and City of Light, basically champions have won this race," Cox said before the race of the Pegasus milestone. "It means a whole lot. It’s a race that can make a stallion and we’re still trying to do that with Knicks Go. He’ll be a stallion at some point.”
After the race, with the complexity and scope of the decision whether to retire increasingly literally by the minute, Cox was less guarded about his horse's obvious talents, but no less opaque about his horse's next move.
"Great horses do great things," he said.