The high-caliber graded stakes action for the biggest equine stars in the United States may be over for 2021 following the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Still, all eyes will quickly be turning to what should be a fascinating battle in the Pegasus World Cup in late January.
Some of the best horse racing betting sites are already offering ante-post prices for the first huge Grade 1 of 2022 as Knicks Go looks to make history in the race by becoming the first two-time winner of the lucrative race at Gulfstream Park. Online betting sites have him listed at 5-2 odds to win the Pegasus World Cup.
The 5-year-old trained by Brad Cox will make his final start on the track in Grade 1 after enjoying a 2021 campaign to remember. His season started back in late January at Gulfstream with a victory in the Pegasus World Cup, as he held off Jesus Team to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
His dominance has never really been in question throughout this calendar year, as he has passed every test that has been put in front of him with flying colors. The only blemishes on his otherwise perfect record came in his following two starts after that lucrative success. He was fourth in the Saudi Cup before finishing fourth once again in returning to the United States in the Grade 1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap.
Many began to question whether the horse’s best days were behind him at that point, but a strong showing when hitting a career-high speed figure of 117 in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap immediately put that right. Success in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes and then a dominant showing in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic Stakes set him up perfectly for a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The route from the Breeders’ Cup to the Pegasus World Cup is the same path that was taken 12 months ago by these connections, and it would be hard to dismiss the idea that he isn’t in a stronger place right now than he was last year. Knicks Go will go into the Pegasus World Cup in 2022 in career-best form, as we have never seen a complete version of the soon to be 6-year-old.
He was scintillating in the Classic at Del Mar as he certainly answered any questions regarding the trip being too much for him against proven 3-year-olds such as Essential Quality, Medina Spirit, and Hot Rod Charlie. The race certainly played out to his strengths, though, as the 3-year-olds seemed more interested in each other, which allowed Knicks Go to stretch ahead before the riders on the other leading contenders could decide what to do.
The eventual winning margin of 2 3/4 lengths from Medina Spirit was an emphatic one, and the victory never looked in doubt after the first couple of furlongs. But, whether he could join the famous company and claim another lucrative victory at Gulfstream could be dependent on whether he gets the best of a rejuvenated Life Is Good.
The top of the betting for the Pegasus World Cup includes names such as Hot Rod Charlie. However, it remains to be seen whether he will head to Gulfstream before he attempts to win the Saudi Cup.
The most interesting contender comes in the form of Life Is Good for trainer Todd Pletcher. This time last year, Life Is Good was seen by many as the outstanding chance for the Triple Crown races, but a rotten run of luck for connections meant that he was unable to line up in any of the lucrative races.
He made his return at Saratoga over a shorter distance of seven furlongs but came up just short by a neck behind Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes. But there was little doubt from that showing that he was back to his very best. Life Is Good then won the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap by a commanding 5 ½-length margin from Fort Peck to set up a shot at the Breeders’ Cup. The Dirt Mile was the race that connections targeted, and the equine star decimated the field, winning by nearly six lengths from Ginobili.
To make things even more interesting before the showdown between two of the most impressive Breeders’ Cup winners, the race that Life Is Good won in preparation for the Pegasus World Cup was the same as the Cox runner a year ago. However, Life Is Good won it more commandingly.
It promises to be a showdown for the ages and an early New Year’s treat for all racing fans, and it will be fascinating to see which of the stars comes out on top.