Grade 1 winner Knicks Go getting 'back on track' in Super Derby

By Martha Claussen/Louisiana Downs
September 02, 2019 12:38pm

A field of 10 3-year-olds were entered for the Grade 3, $300,000 Super Derby at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs on Saturday in the marquee event of the 2019 thoroughbred meet. First post time is 12 p.m. CT. with the feature going as the 11th at 6:07 p.m.


Leading the field is Knicks Go, owned by KRA Stud Farms, who has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite. The Paynter broke his maiden last July at Ellis Park and went on to a highly successful 2-year-old season for trainer Ben Colebrook, first attracting considerable attention last October when he pulled a huge upset in Keeneland's Breeders’ Futurity (G1). Dismissed by the betting public, he topped a full field of juveniles in gate-to-wire fashion at odds of 70-1. He followed that with a game runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Knicks Go enters the Super Derby field with a career bankroll of $710,925 banked in 11 lifetime starts. 


“He was very precocious early in his career,” said Colebrook. “I was not surprised he won the Breeders’ Futurity; maybe more with the ease that he won the race. I believed he was better than his 70-1 odds, and he validated that in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It was a thrill to win my first Grade 1 at Keeneland.”


Knicks Go has competed in four graded stakes in 2019, most recently running second Aug. 11 in the Ellis Park Derby.


“When he turned 3, it took him a while to get back on track,” Colebrook said. “But he has faced some tough horses, including Mr. Money, who is the one of best 3-year-olds in the country. The Super Derby is a good spot for him; we are excited to be coming on Saturday.”


Colebrook confirmed that Knicks Go will leave Kentucky on Thursday and will be ridden by Colby Hernandez, who clinched the riding title at the recently concluded 2019 Evangeline Downs thoroughbred meet with 95 wins.

“He’s never ridden for me before, but he’s one of the top riders in Louisiana and I know his brother (Brian) very well,” added Colebrook.


Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen is currently the second-leading money earning trainer in North America.  Last year, he ran two horses in the Super Derby and won with longshot Limation for owner Michael Langford.  He has two entrants again in this edition of the race: Rotation, a Tapit colt owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, and Vanglider, winner of the $70,000 Charles Taylor Derby on July 20 at the Downs of Albuquerque for owner Chuck Hovitz.


Rotation was the favorite in the Super Derby Prelude but stumbled out of the gate, almost unseating jockey Richard Eramia. He gamely battled to complete the superfecta.  


“He grabbed himself pretty badly, but thankfully, is fully healed,” Asmussen said. “We had options for Vangilder but thought this would be a good spot for him.”


Eramia returns aboard Rotation and Asmussen has give the call on Vangilder, a Kentucky-bred son of Paynter, to C. J. McMahon. He was the winning rider aboard 2016 Super Derby champion Texas Chrome.


Trainer Al Stall Jr., who has won three previous editions of the Super Derby, will test stakes company for the first time with Adele B. Dilschneider‘s homebred Rescind. The lightly raced son of Blame broke his maiden and won a $19,000 allowance here on Aug. 12. Stall won the first won the Super Derby in 2008 with My Pal Charlie and again two years later with Apart.  Departing was the third winner for the New Orleans native in 2013. 


Leader of Men, owned by Walpole Racing LLC, won the $60,000 Super Derby Prelude on Aug. 3 for his fourth consecutive victory at Louisiana Downs. He stretched out to a mile and one-sixteenth for the first time, advancing comfortably to win his first career stakes in a final time of 1:46.96. The victory was celebrated by owner Kevin Walpole and his wife, Amy, who reside in Haughton, La. His regular jockey, Hector Del-Cid, will retain the mount. The bay gelding,  who was a May 28 foal, is described as a “big kid, who is finally getting the hang of his job” by trainer Jodie Hodges.


Four additional runners from the Super Derby Prelude are also entered in the Super Derby. They include Trevilion, owned by Tigertail Ranch and trained by Victor Arcenaeux, who ran second; Paynt Battle, the third-place finisher for Norman Stables, LLC and conditioner Lonnie Briley; as well as Golden Tooth Ranch, LP’s Fredonian, who ran fifth.


The field also includes Cabot, a son of Will Take Charge who will make his second stakes start for owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. Trained by Ron Moquett, Cabot will be ridden by Marcelino Pedroza, who is currently the leading rider at Indiana Grand Race Course. 


Trainer Grant Forster will send Pirate’s Punch, a son of Shanghai Bobby, who will make his stakes debut for the ownership group of Gulliver Racing LLC , Craig W. Drager and Dan Legan. Veteran jockey Robby Albarado, who is just returning off a wrist injury suffered in June at Churchill Downs, has the mount. The victory would be the third Super Derby score for Albarado, who won his first Super Derby in 2006 aboard Strong Contender and followed that with a win with Departing seven years later.


The Super Derby, first run in 1980, has a distinguished list of past champions, including four Kentucky Derby winners, four Preakness Stakes winners, five Belmont Stakes winners and seven Travers Stakes winners.


We were very pleased with the field entered for this year’s Super Derby,” said David Heitzmann, Louisiana Downs' director of racing and racing secretary. “Our thanks go to both national and our Louisiana-based horsemen for their support and we look forward to an outstanding day of racing.”


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