January 27, 2023

Knicks Go to receive plenty of respect in Kentucky Jockey Club

Knicks Go dominated the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland under jockey Albin Jimenez to score the upset win at 70-1 on October 6, 2018 (c) Keeneland/Coady Photography

After outperforming expectations in his last two outings, Knicks Go appears likely to go favored in Saturday’s $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/16-mile event for two-year-olds serves as a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifier, offering a combined 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1), and Knicks Go heads an overflow field of 16 that includes a pair of also-eligibles.

A gray colt from the second crop of Paynter, Knicks Go won his career debut at Ellis Park but was never a factor when trying stakes foes at Saratoga, checking in fifth in the Sanford (G2). After a non-threatening third in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, the Ben Colebrook trainee recorded the biggest upset in the history of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, leading wire-to-wire at 70-1 in a 5 ½-length romp.

Bettors took a skeptical approach entering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs, dismissing Knicks Go at 40-1, but the improving youngster was prominent from the start and surged to a short lead rounding the far turn. Knicks Go fought all the way to the wire in a gutsy runner-up performance, reluctantly surrendering the advantage in deep stretch to even-money favorite Game Winner, who needed a massive effort to remain unbeaten in his fourth career start for Bob Baffert.

Albin Jimenez retains the mount on Knicks Go, who promises to show his customary early speed from post 13.

Signalman will receive support following his third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A maiden winner in his second career start at Saratoga, the Kenny McPeek-trained son of General Quarters followed with a third in the Breeders’ Futurity. After breaking from the far outside in the 13-horse Juvenile, Signalman was taken back and guided to the inside by jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and the bay colt rallied boldly past most of the field on the far turn. He carried his momentum into the stretch, finishing fast to be only a length back of Knicks Go on the wire, and connections won’t have to worry about a wide trip from the innermost post Saturday.

Grade 3 winner Current will try the main track after a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). A $725,000 Curlin colt, Current will pick up the services of Javier Castellano and is one of two in the field for Todd Pletcher, who will also send out last-out Belmont Park maiden scorer King for a Day. John Velazquez will be in to ride the son of Uncle Mo and King for a Day registered a respectable 96 BRIS Speed rating in advance of his third career start.

Restricted stakes victor Topper T, eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile from post 12, is also back for the Kentucky Jockey Club but draws another tough outside assignment in gate 14. Florent Geroux takes over on the Bill Mott-trained Iowa-bred. Dunph will try open company off a pair of impressive wins, breaking his maiden by 8 ½ lengths at Penn National and capturing the October 28 Spendthrift Juvenile by 7 ¾ lengths under the Twin Spires in first try for Mike Maker. Tyler Gaffalione will be back aboard.

Other runners include stakes-placed Manny Wah and Tracksmith; and last-out winners Blue Steel, Plus Que Parfait, Roiland and Royal Urn.