The ageless nine-year-old Red Knight earned the first top-level win of his career and became the oldest winner ever of the $600,000 Man o’ War (G1) at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Settled at the rear of the field early while racing alongside 3-5 favorite Warren Point, Red Knight followed that rival into contention in the run down the backstretch. Edging closer to the leaders around the far turn while racing three wide, Red Knight made a four-wide bid entering the stretch and produced the best closing kick to win by 1 1/2 lengths under Irad Ortiz Jr. as the 5-1 second choice in a field of eight.
“He started taking me from the five-eighths pole to the quarter pole waiting for the time to go and when I asked him he responded really well,” Ortiz said. “By the quarter pole, he was already in stride. I just bided my time and tipped him out and he did the rest.”
Bred in New York by owner Trinity Farms, Red Knight stopped the clock in 2:13.74 over the firm inner turf and paid $12.80.
In a five-horse blanket finish for the minor awards, Soldier Rising was up late to earn the place by a head over 50-1 outsider Strong Tide. Also in the scrum were Howe Street, Warren Point, and former turf champion and Man o’ War pacesetter Channel Maker. Completing the order of finish were Verstappen and Value Engineering.
Before Red Knight’s win on Saturday, the record for oldest Man o’ War winner was held jointly by Yankee Affair (1989), Val’s Prince (1999), and With Anticipation (2002), all of whom were seven-years-old.
Red Knight is trained by Mike Maker, for whom he has won four stakes since making his debut for the trainer last July. The gelding captured the Colonial Cup at Colonial Downs and the Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) at Kentucky Downs in his first two starts for Maker, and then was unplaced in the Sycamore (G3) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), both at Keeneland.
The Man o’ War was the third start of the season for Red Knight, who kicked off 2023 with a victory in the Jan. 28 W.L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream and followed with a head second to Verstappen in the Apr. 22 Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland. Red Knight has now won 12 of 34 starts for earnings of more than $1.7 million.
Red Knight is by Pure Prize and was produced by the Skip Away mare Isabel Away, who also reared multiple stakes winner Macagone.