Singling the expected favorite Knicks Go in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday might sound tempting. But there are good reasons to think about including other horses with him in multi-race wagers.
When singling a favorite, the form needs to look near flawless to justify the risk of trusting one horse at a short price. But in the case of Knicks Go, there are a few holes to think about before trusting him alone.
Knicks Go’s most glaring fault is the lack of nine-furlong wins on his record. Granted, Knicks Go owns three wins at 1 1/16 miles, including the 2018 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland as a 2-year-old colt. But his two other 1 1/16-mile wins came against softer competition.
Besides, nine furlongs is still a significant hurdle, even with previous success at one to 1 1/16 miles. Consider the difference in how a six or 6 1/2-furlong race feels to handicap in comparison to seven furlongs, or seven furlongs versus one mile. The small step up makes a difference.
Sometimes true sprinters enter one-mile races and prevail, depending on the circumstances. But nine furlongs generally separates sprinters who stretch their limits from actual routers, as the Kentucky Derby trail shows every spring.
In terms of pedigree, Knicks Go’s sire side is route-oriented with Paynter on top, while his dam Kosmo’s Buddy is a slight concern in terms of stamina. Kosmo’s Buddy won five races and $298k in a successful sprinting career, including the 2008 Maryland Million Turf Sprint Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs as a career highlight.
As a broodmare, Kosmo’s Buddy produced four other foals besides Knicks Go, but none offer strong clues about his extended routing capabilities. His older half-brother Super Buddy earned $137k in his career, with three of his wins coming in one-mile races and one in a sprint. Again, though, his record does not tilt the discussion either way.
Another strike is how Knicks Go is one-dimensional in running style. He cannot switch styles by stalking to get the extra distance because it is against his natural inclination. This horse only knows how to run fast.
It is true that the speed horses entered in the Pegasus all seem to prefer pressing or stalking. Sleepy Eyes Todd is capable of contesting the pace, but the connections already hinted at rating tactics, leaving Knicks Go as possibly the lone pacesetter.
But what if one or two horses change tactics through jockey manipulation? All it takes is a tactical speed horse such as Mr Freeze or True Timber getting asked from the start, and the pace could change. After all, Mr Freeze set the pace in the 2020 Pegasus en route to a great runner-up finish before turning into a stalker for the rest of 2020.
Granted, it will take courage for any jockey to attempt to steal the lead from Knicks Go or contest him, as it almost certainly will burn both horses out up front.
As a last point to warn singling Knicks Go, why take a favorite with unproven ability at nine furlongs, when the rest of the field is not very far behind him in ability or even on par with Knicks Go at the longer distance? Sure, at one mile Knicks Go is the best dirt horse around, but at nine furlongs, it is up in the air.
Some handicappers might look toward City of Light as an example of a miler who won the Pegasus World Cup, but even City of Light had proven ability at nine furlongs as the 2018 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) winner over the talented Accelerate.
Is Knicks Go really lengths better than horses such as Code of Honor, Jesus’ Team, Mr Freeze and Tax at nine furlongs? How does anyone know without solid proof? If not, then why trust him as a single?
In any case, those are the warnings against singling Knicks Go. As always, the final decision is up to bettors. If someone reads this post and still thinks that Knicks Go is the best horse by four to five lengths, then by all means, single him. Just make sure he is that good.
For final ideas on who else to include in multi-race wagers, I'll have another post on this blog before Friday.
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
|C. McGaughey III|
|S. Joseph, Jr.|
To Honor and Serve