There was a moment in time where Knicks Go looked like a potential Kentucky Derby winner. The gorgeous dark grey colt stamped his name in everyone’s memory the day he won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in 2018 at odds of 70-1. One month later he took on the best two-year olds in the nation in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and ran his heart out to finish second to Game Winner, again as one of the longest shots in the race.
He looked so full of promise and potential at that point in his career, but he failed to find success in his next nine starts. In most of those starts, Knicks Go didn’t even manage to hit the board. His best performance in the year that passed after the Breeders’ Cup was a second place finish behind Grey Magician in the Ellis Park Derby. It seemed as though he had lost that flame that had propelled him to glory so early in his career.
[Video: Watch Knicks Go win his first Grade 1 in the Breeders' Futurity at odds of 70-1]
Though Knicks Go lost race after race, his owners Korea Racing Authority never lost faith in him. The KRA purchased Knicks Go $87,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale (2017). The KRA had been shopping in the middle markets for quality racehorses who could one day turn into a successful stallion for Korea’s ever growing Thoroughbred breeding program. “We have our own genetic nicking program,” Jun Park of the KRA explained to TDN. “That's the main reason we are doing this. They have their own genetic program to identify good race horses and also good potential stallion prospects. It's all done with scientific data. With Knicks, we got a hair sample and sent it to a company to analyze the whole genome. They look at the map of the genes and will identify which ones have the highest potential.” (The horse's name doesn't have anything to do with the basketball team. According to nydailynews.com, "The 'K' is for Korea. 'Nicks' is a term referring to selecting sire lines that enhance the chance for breeding success. The 'Go' is a reference to the horse’s frontrunning style..")
The colt’s breeders Sabrina and Angie Moore never gave up on him either. The Moore’s had claimed Knicks Go’s dam Kosmo’s Buddy (Outflanker) for $40,000 in September 2010. The mare had won a couple of stakes races and performed well in quite a few others, so her price seemed like quite a bargain. They raced her just once more before taking her back to their Green Mount Farm in Maryland to join their broodmare band.
Some years and a few foals down the road, the Moore’s decided to breed Kosmo’s Buddy to Paynter and thus Knicks Go was born on January 29, 2016. He was an ornery colt that was known for running off with no warning during leading, bathing, or standing. Despite the trouble he may have given them as a youngster, the Moore's love for him only grew and grew as he propelled their small breeding operation into a industry-known name with his Grade 1 win in the Breeders’ Futurity and heart-filled performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Their pride in him never wavered, even during his losing streak.
The KRA knew Knicks Go needed a change to prove how talented he really was, so they decided to transfer him from trainer Ben Colebrook to Brad Cox. This turned out to be just the move that Knicks Go needed; he made his first start for Cox in an Allowance at Oaklawn Park and absolutely obliterated his competition by 7 ½ lengths. "Obviously, I don't know what the horse was doing before, but I do know he really likes to train and is very aggressive, and we allow him to do that," Cox said of the horse's turnaround once he entered his barn. "He has been a horse who when he's sound and happy, we breeze him every week, and he puts a lot into his works."
Knicks Go then suffered a setback after his Allowance win and talks of retiring him began. Brad Cox, however, felt that Knicks Go wasn’t done yet. He urged them to give him time to recover to see what else he may be able to accomplish. The KRA obliged and Knicks Go returned in an Allowance at Keeneland about seven months later. The now five-year old colt rewarded his connections with a dominant 10 ¼ length romp.
It was decided then that Knicks Go would enter the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), which was also to be run at Keeneland. This time the public believed in him just as much as his connections did and made him the favorite; Knicks Go went to the lead and never looked back, crossing the wire 3 ½ lengths ahead of his rivals in track record time.
[Video: Watch Knicks Go win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1)]
As if that victory alone isn’t enough for this glorious comeback story, Knicks Go went down to Florida to compete in the Pegasus World Cup (G1). Whispers that Knicks Go was only good at Keeneland were going around the horse racing community, but thankfully the horse didn’t hear them; Knicks Go led from wire to wire to win the prestigious race by 2 ¾ lengths.
The Pegasus was undoubtedly an incredible day for all who had a part of Knicks Go’s life and career. But, his story isn’t over yet. Knicks Go has been sent to Saudi Arabia to compete in the $20 million Saudi Cup. This race promises to be entertaining to all who tune in to watch on Saturday, February 20; Knicks Go will be squaring off with Bob Baffert’s talented colt Charlatan and an epic duel is sure to ensue.
Regardless of whether or not Knicks Go is successful in Saudi Arabia, he has already given a lifetime of memories to all of his connections.
“It’s been an incredible experience and I just feel so incredibly fortunate,” Knicks Go’s breeder Sabrina Moore said, reflecting on the colt’s career. “I’ve been watching big races all of my life and I love watching the winning connections and get chills watching them celebrate. I never imagined I would be in their shoes. It’s completely surreal!”
Knicks Go’s story just goes to show just how much help a little patience and a change of scenery can be for a horse. With the help of Brad Cox's training methods, Knicks Go has blossomed into the horse his breeders and owners always knew that he was. Had Knicks Go retired after his string of tough losses, he would have never gotten the chance to prove that he was indeed worthy of competing and winning on the sport’s biggest stages.
This $87,000 horse has not only rewarded his connections faith in him with millions of dollars in prize money, but also with the experience of having a horse represent them at the Grade 1 level. That makes him priceless.
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