Knicks Go took the early lead and never let up in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday, winning the $6 million showpiece in Del Mar, California, in dominant fashion.
Jockey Joel Rosario piloted the Whitney Stakes winner through a speedy nine-horse field to deliver trainer Brad Cox his first Breeders’ Cup Classic win, beating Bob Baffert's controversial Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit by 2-3/4 lengths.
"He just likes to run," Rosario said after the race. "He's just like, 'Come on, chase me.' I just had my head down, he was doing the work."
Cox praised the performance from the "tremendous horse," who was among the favorites headed into the race Saturday, but said his allegiances were torn, with another of his horses, Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, finishing third.
"This was a tough race for me to watch," he said. "As they’re coming down the lane, I’m wanting Essential to get there and kind of almost have them duke it out."
But there was no such challenge for Knicks Go, who never conceded the lead through the 1-1/4-mile race.
"These are like your kids and when they face each other - it’s tough to watch one get defeated," said Cox.
Hot Rod Charlie, another favorite who finished second at the Belmont Stakes this year and third at the Kentucky Derby, settled for fourth place.
Express Train withdrew from the race Saturday morning due to swelling in his right hock.
Medina Spirit failed a drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby in May but was among a handful of horses that Baffert - who has a record four wins in the Classic - was allowed to compete in the two-day Breeders' Cup after agreeing to enhanced testing measures.
Another Baffert-trained horse, Corniche, won Friday's $2 million Juvenile.
Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell and William Mallard
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