THE fifth running of the Grade 1 $2,942,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes looked to have a lesser quality field as well as less prize money than the races won by Horses of the Year in Arrogate and Gun Runner.

That wasn’t the fault of the race as the US has few of the top older horses from last year in training. However, it produced a top-class performance from the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go as he raced from gate to wire and was never in danger to win by two and three-quarter lengths.

Jockey Joel Rosario took Knicks Go to the lead when the field of 12 broke from the gate and the 6/5 choice led to a half mile in 46.16secs from Independence Hall and Tax.

As Knicks Go continued to motor along through six furlongs in 1m09.91secs, Last Judgment and Tax dropped back and Jesus’ Team moved up from fifth to mount the only effort from the back of the field.

Rosario had Knicks Go in front by a comfortable three lengths at the mile pole and covered the nine-furlong distance in 1m47.89secs on the fast track. He was given a Beyer speed figure of 108. The five-year-old is trained by Brad Cox for the Korea Racing Authority.

“What a training job by Brad Cox,” Rosario said. “He’s very special. You can see, he goes faster, like I said, faster and faster.”

“Great horses do great things, and he did something great today. I’m very proud of him,” Cox added.

Knicks Go had been a Grade 1 winner at two for his previous trainer, Ben Colebrook, and was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but failed to win as a three-year-old. Since he was moved into the Cox barn last year, he is unbeaten in his four runs.

“I wish I could say why it happened, but I don’t know what was happening before. He was great at two and looked like a good horse when we got him,” Cox said.

“It was an outstanding performance. We appreciate everything the (Brad Cox) team did with him. Everybody did a great job with him,” Jun Park, a representative of the KRA said. “We are honoured to be here and he will continue to race.”

It was the first running of the race without lasix and Cox reported to the Daily Racing Form the next day: “He seemed to bounce out of it well, and he scoped clean, which is important because obviously that was the first time we’ve run him with no lasix.

“He never had a history of bleeding, but it’s always a little bit of a question the first time, and this gives us confidence moving where running without lasix is becoming so prevalent.”

He is a proper bargain buy as his sire Paynter stands for $7,500 at WinStar and he cost his owners only $87,000 at Keeneland in September 2017 as he is the only stakes winner from his dam. It was Knicks Go’s sixth win in 18 starts and brought his career earnings to over $3 million.

The next target could be the $20 million Saudi Cup over the same distance on February 20th in Riyadh as he received an automatic spot in the field for the world’s richest race, but Cox only considers it only 50-50.

The $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 27th is the other option but over a furlong farther. Cox believes he has the breeding to stretch his speed to the 10-furlong distance.

Jesus’ Team, was second by a neck from Independence Hall. “I am very proud of ‘Jesus,’ he’s a great horse. Today, he didn’t have the luck to win, because Knicks Go ran again alone in front,” said his trainer Jose D’Angelo. The owners of Jesus’ Team are awaiting invitations for the $20 Million Saudi Cup and the $12 million Dubai World Cup.

Code of Honor, the 4/1 second choice failed to find his typically strong late run and finished fifth.

Pegasus Turf

The Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes also went to the favourite in the Todd Pletcher-trained Colonel Liam.

The son of Liam’s Map got out of traffic on the turn and accelerated down the stretch to edge out his stablemate Largent by a neck.

Pletcher also trained Liam’s Map who the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2015.

Colonel Liam is a third Grade 1 winner for his sire including Basin who got the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on the disqualification of Charlatan. The winner was bought for $1.2 million by his owners Robert and Lawana Low during the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

Colonel Liam was switched to turf last summer following two modest efforts in dirt races, and won well on turf in Saratoga before a troubled fourth in the Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes last August and he returned to take the Tropical Park Derby last month at Gulfstream.

After sitting in midpack for the first mile under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., as 2019 juvenile champion Storm The Court set the pace to a half mile in 1m12.85secs, Colonel Liam was angled out into the centre of the course by Irad Ortiz and he outkicked the rallying Largent to win his first Grade 1 in 1m 53.09secs. It was the jockey’s second win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf after winning in 2019 aboard Bricks And Mortar.

“This is just unreal. It’s fantastic,” Robert Low said in a television interview. “I’ve got to give the credit to our wonderful trainer, Todd Pletcher, wonderful rider, Irad Ortiz. We had a great combination. We had the horse, we had the trainer, we had the rider, and they got it done.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way they all ran,” said Pletcher. “It was a heck of a race between Largent and Colonel Liam at the end. I thought Social Paranoia put in a huge effort from the 12 post. Just really, really happy with all three of them.

“He showed us a lot of ability in his couple of starts on the grass,” he said of Colonel Liam. “We felt like he was getting better and better. We loved the way he handled the turf in the Tropical (Park) Derby and he had trained great. We were very optimistic. He’s a little less experienced than some of the other horses but I think this proves his quality,”

Pletcher is targeting the colt at the Grade 1 Old Forester Classic on Kentucky Derby day in May.