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Knicks Go blitzes Pegasus World Cup opposition

Knicks Go added to his Breeders’ Cup success with a brilliant victory in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.

The former Grade One-winning juvenile is unbeaten since joining Brad Cox and confirmed his quickly-attained status as one of the best horses in the world with another dominating effort from the front – just as he had done in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Swiftly away under Joel Rosario in the $3million showpiece, the five-year-old had Last Judgment for company through the early stages, with the well-fancied Tax just behind that pair.

But Rosario’s partner always looked to be doing it easily and once his rider pressed the button at the top of the stretch it became just a matter of whether he would see out nine furlongs, on what was his first try at the trip.

The red-hot favourite answered that question in emphatic style, galloping all the way to the line to comfortably account for old foe Jesus’ Team and Independence Hall.

Asked to sum up the performance, Cox told NBC Sports: “I’d say greatness was the word – great horses do great things and he did something great, so I’m very proud of him.

“When a horse is up front and they are going that quick, you are always a little concerned, but Joel has a lot of confidence in the horse and the horse has confidence in him, so it worked out great.”

The win opens up even more options for Knicks Go, with obvious options available in the shape of the Saudi Cup over nine furlongs and the Dubai World Cup at a mile and a quarter.

Cox added: “If he gets the right set up I do believe he can get a mile and a quarter. It’s a mile-and-a-quarter pedigree.”

Knicks Go primed for Pegasus World Cup mission

Victory for Knicks Go in the $3million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday night would cement the rapid rise to fame of the Brad Cox-trained five-year-old.

A Grade One winner as a two-year-old, Knicks Go joined the Cox stable at the start of last year and won two allowance races before heading to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Sent off a short-priced favourite at Keeneland, he made all under Joel Rosario to run out a comfortable winner over Jesus’ Team, breaking the track record in the process.

Cox is aware of the extra significance success in the fifth running of the Gulfstream showpiece would bring, in terms of the future for Knicks Go as a stallion.

Cox – who had four winners over the two days of the Breeders’ Cup meeting – said: “It’s a very prestigious race. It hasn’t been around that long, but with the likes of Gun Runner, Arrogate and City Of Light, there are champions that have won this race. It means a whole lot.

“It’s a race that can make a stallion, and we’re still trying to do that with Knicks Go. He’ll be a stallion at some point. This would mean a lot and do a lot for his value as a stallion.

“Not only is it a great purse, but it’s going to add a lot of value if he’s able to win the race.”

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He will, however, have to carry his undoubted speed over nine furlongs for the first time.

Cox said: “I haven’t raced a lot at Gulfstream, but I think speed is always a good thing there. I’m a big believer that speed is good at a mile and an eighth and beyond – obviously it depends on how much other speed is in the race.

“But I think he can get it. I think he’s a horse that once he gets free and loose, he runs with a lot of confidence.”

He added: “I’m excited. I really do think he’ll handle a mile and an eighth. In his three races with us last year, there was horse left.

“In the Breeders’ Cup, Joel reached up and grabbed him four or five jumps from the wire, so he was still going.”

Jesus’ Team tries to reverse the form, with last year’s winning rider Irad Ortiz jnr in the saddle for the first time.

Trainer Jose D’Angelo said: “It’s very exciting. It is the most important race of our calendar in South Florida at Gulfstream Park. I think it’s a big test for both me and Jesus.”

The betting suggests the biggest dangers to Knicks Go are Tax and Code Of Honor.

Trained by Danny Gargan, Tax was ninth last year to Mucho Gusto, having stumbled at the start.

“He’s better now than he’s ever been. We always knew he was a really good horse. He’s grown and developed into a better horse than he was last year. I think with age he’s getting better and getting stronger, healthier,” Gargan said.

““He has a few little issues we had to work through, and he’s gotten through them. I’m expecting a big performance.”

Code Of Honor at his best would promise to a major danger to Knicks Go.

The record of Shug McGaughey’s charge is littered with high-class form, including a third to Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby and victories in the Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup, the latter on the disqualification of Vino Rosso following a very tight finish.

He was last seen in the Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs, finishing second to Bodexpress.

McGaughey said: “In the Clark, he was bottled up there. By the time he got loose, the race was pretty much over.

“Before that, going a mile, Chad’s (Brown) horse (Complexity) kind of controlled what was going on. I think Javier (Castellano) knew he had to be closer and move a little sooner.

“The Whitney was a throw out. His first race was good. I probably shouldn’t have run him in the Metropolitan Mile. He was wide and Vekoma got the trip. He’s a nice horse. Maybe this will be his day.”

True Timber bids to make Jack Sisterson the pride of Durham

Trainer Jack Sisterson may be best known in his adopted America – but should True Timber win the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park this weekend, the County Durham native could become pretty famous ‘back home’ too.

Sisterson, 36, arrived in Louisville on a football scholarship, and now finds himself one of the rising stars of US racing.

True Timber helped raise his profile when winning the Cigar Mile by five and a half lengths – and if he runs well again on Saturday in what will be his third appearance in the Pegasus, his trainer has plans to send him to Saudi Arabia.

“I came out on a football scholarship – and I’m still here!” said Sisterson.

“My family trained point-to-pointers – so growing up, my two main interests were football and racing.

“I had a passion for both and fortunately I was able to study what I loved. I was on the equine programme at the University of Louisville, got a summer job with Todd Pletcher at Churchill Downs and played football at the same time.

“Once I graduated I spent some time with Doug O’Neill in California. Before I wanted to be a footballer I wanted to be a jockey – but I’m 6ft 2in, so that dream soon died, but I’ve been very fortunate with the opportunities I’ve had in America.

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“I was lucky enough to know the right people at university to open doors and point me in the right direction. I’ve started at the bottom and had to work my way up. But I owe thanks to the people who helped me start at the bottom – and with the will to do it, you can achieve anything.”

True Timber is a rarity in racing, an entire seven-year-old competing at the highest level, but there is no doubt he took his form to new heights last time out by winning his first Grade One.

“It was a career best last time out in the Cigar Mile. He came to me in great condition from Kiaran McLaughlin (who retired). I just need to stay out of True Timber’s way and keep him happy,” added Sisterson.

“Running him in that was always a year-end goal, because his previous runs in the race were very competitive. We thought if we got him there fresh and aimed for that – even despite his age, we felt he could be involved.

“Normally horses of his calibre have won several Grade Ones and gone off to stud – but Calumet (Farm, owners) are of the belief that if the horses are well, run them. When I was working for Doug we had Nyquist, who had Gun Runner behind him in the Kentucky Derby.

“Nyquist was retired that year – which is understandable given the money they can earn at stud – but Gun Runner won nearly everything the year after, including the Classic and the Pegasus. You can’t blame them when they can earn so much, though.

“True Timber just loves to train and run – you don’t want to take that away from him, but it’s thanks to the owner for allowing us to do it.”

While Sisterson is confident True Timber is at the peak of his powers, there is one thing he cannot control and which could affect his performance.

“The only bad run he’s had for us was at Belmont when he drew the inside post. He hates being on the inside – even in training if you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to he shuts himself off, but we found that out early,” said Sisterson.

“That’s just horses telling you, (and) you have to listen. He’s progressed nicely because of that.

“Everything is in place for the Pegasus. We had a plan heading to the Cigar Mile, and True Timber executed it very well – he probably exceeded expectations. We changed his training a touch, because we’ve never run him over this far, but he’s taken it well.”

Should True Timber strike gold in Florida then he will automatically qualify for the Saudi Cup, worth $20m.

“I’ve been looking at the Saudi race, and there seems to be a lot of grass horses going for it, and you wonder how they handle the dirt,” added Sisterson.

“There’s Charlatan for Bob Baffert – and it might be a case of who finishes second, because he looks way above average.

“Everything has to fall into place, though. If True Timber runs well he’ll definitely be on the Saudi plane. As he’s out there, it’s not far to Dubai either – but we’ll take it once race at a time.

“We think if he gets a good draw he’s got a good chance. But I’m not going to lie – if he’s stuck on the inside, he’ll probably be up against it. I’m not a big believer in luck, but we might need some to get an outside draw.

“If he’s on the inside and he doesn’t run his race then we’re still fortunate to have him, and keep our fingers crossed he gets an outside position next time.”