How many times can we use the word “Classic” in a sentence and it still be okay? Hopefully four is permissible so here we go…The 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic featured a classic run by a classic race horse in a classic setting.
Run at the iconic Del Mar Race Course in Southern California on November 6, the setting at the Seaside Oval is nothing short of spectacular. With the heaviest of hitters in the lineup, the mile and a quarter Classic was the deserving main event of these World Championships. The word “Classic” doesn’t do Del Mar justice but we’ll use it here anyway.
Coming in as the morning line favorite, Knicks Go was every bit deserving of that distinction. Three consecutive tour de force wins and seven victories in nine starts under the care of trainer Brad Cox told us all he really gets after it. The recent win totals are impressive, but the way in which he has done it is even more spectacular. A horse that gets out of the gate and runs hard through the wire, he has left little doubt about his “catch me if you can” style. Full of courage and heart, he defines “classic race horse”.
The thing about the 2021 Classic was there were a couple of other top notch runners with a similar style. Hot Rod Charlie and Medina Spirit had both won big races during this, their three-year old campaign, in similar fashion. Hot Rod’s runs in the Louisiana Derby and Pennsylvania Derby were white-smokers. Medina Spirit was more than funky in winning the Kentucky Derby and Awesome Again Stakes. Question here was would the race be hotly contested on the front end and produce a pace melt down?
Races run earlier in the day had seen such results as front-end speed faded and closers hauled home the hardware. The $6 million question for Knicks Go and the other front runners was do you alter your style or simply do what you do?
Here is where a classic runner proved exactly why he is what he is. This five-year old son of Paynter had no need to change anything. Having never won at a mile and a quarter was not a scary thought as his recent wins saw increasing horsepower and widening margins as the wire drew closer.
“We have learned Knicks Go is a two turn horse”, says Brad Cox in the weeks leading up to the Cup. “His only two losses running out of our barn were one turn races. He just seems to gain momentum coming out of that second turn.”
Breaking like a rocket on the Del Mar dirt, Knicks Go went immediately to the lead and never looked back. He threw down a solid opening quarter (23.03) and quickened a bit (22.61 ) for a solid half mile time of 45.77. Cruising down the backstretch with the others digesting dust, his stride was storybook. Turning for home things played out as Cox claimed. Hot Rod Charlie was the first to come at him but just couldn’t hang. Stable mate Essential Quality attempted to make a run, but no dice. A reserved running Medina Spirit was the final pursuant with a chance but he too lacked the horsepower to make any real kind of challenge and finished 2 ¾ lengths behind in second .
Covering the distance in a swift 1:59.54, Knicks Go turned in one of the most powerful performances in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. In leading every step of the way this classic race horse’s classic performance at a classic venue can be summed up with a classic old Southern phrase. “He flat toted the mail”.