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Knicks Go captures Breeders' Cup Classic while Yibir triumphs in Turf

There were big wins for trainers Brad Cox and Charlie Appleby.

Knicks Go powering to victory at the Breeders' Cup.
Knicks Go powering to victory at the Breeders' Cup.
Image: Diane Bondareff

KNICKS GO MADE every yard of the running to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Joel Rosario.

Cox saddled two leading contenders in the eventual winner and Essential Quality, with the latter being sent off favourite but he always looked further back than ideal and ended up finishing a creditable third.

Splitting the pair was Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit.

Cox had repeatedly stated he could not split his two runners and there was not much between them ultimately, however, Knicks Go’s ability to control the tempo proved crucial.

Rosario was left to his own devices and for a horse with slight stamina doubts, he was able to just set steady fractions.

Hot Rod Charlie briefly looked a threat turning into the straight but he could never quite get on terms, while Medina Spirit and Essential Quality just stayed on for minor honours.

Knicks Go had finished only fourth behind Mishriff in the Saudi Cup in February, but that was a rare reverse since the five-year-old joined Cox at the beginning of last year.

Cox said: “I didn’t know what the tactics from the others would be, but what I do know is that speed is dangerous.

“The way he was doing it, he was able to clear off a touch down the back, and the way the others were bunched told me he wasn’t doing too much.

“He ran an incredible race at Prairie Meadows and it set us up for the Whitney. It was a best laid plan and it’s paid off.

“He’s built for American racing in the dirt and I’m hopeful he can pass that on because he has everything it takes to be a stallion. Tough and durable and extremely sound. I’m very proud of what he’s accomplished this year.

“Training horses is demanding – its like being a football coach, you need your horses to perform and it’s always back to work. But I have two boys that are involved and may train one day. We’re trying to set something up for them.

“We will enjoy this but it will definitely be back to work in the morning.”

Rosario said: “He was very quick, he broke very sharp and Brad told me to let him do his thing – he was very comfortable and enjoying it.

“I felt confident and when they went for me, I know how fast he is. Round the turn he just took off again.”

Medina Spirit was first past the post in the Kentucky Derby in May but subsequently tested positive for a banned substance, with an investigation still ongoing.

His jockey John Velazquez is in no doubt his mount ended the season as the best of his generation though.

“He proved without any doubt he’s the best three-year-old in America. There’s no doubt about it,” said Velazquez.

Meanwhile, Yibir capped an incredible Breeders’ Cup for Charlie Appleby and William Buick when flying home late to pip Broome in the Turf.

breeders-cup-horse-racing Source: Gregory Bull

Aidan O’Brien’s Broome, ridden by Irad Ortiz, looked to have put the race to bed with a decisive move turning into the short home straight, taking a couple of lengths out of the field.

Yibir had been settled at the rear by William Buick, who along with last year’s winner Tarnawa, had a posse of horses in front of him with just two furlongs to run.

But once Buick pulled the Great Voltiguer winner out into the home straight, Yibir hit his full stride and ran down Broome comfortably in the end.

Roger Varian’s Teona was not far back in third, with O’Brien’s Japan in fourth. Tarnawa found little in the finish and was well beaten.

Appleby and Buick won the Juvenile Turf with Modern Games on Friday and the Mile with Space Blues earlier on Saturday’s card.

Buick said: “Once I turned halfway down the back straight, I was in a better position. I followed Tarnawa but she was never going as well as I thought she would.

“It was the one race I didn’t know how to assess. Yibir is a complex character, as you saw last time he ran over here, I was just hoping he saved a bit for the finish.

“Halfway round the turn I could see Broome had gone, but my horse picked up in a way you rarely see. It was a great performance from a young, up and coming horse.”

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Appleby said: “As you’ve seen he’s run some quite indifferent races this season, like at Goodwood, but then he ran well at York.

“The key was getting him to settle and Jamie Spencer did that at Belmont.

“It was a hard ride for William, he was taking him on but it all worked out.”

As well as saddling three winners, Appleby also had two withdrawn at the start over the course of the meeting and said: “It’s been a fantastic weekend, I can even take a couple home fresh!

“There were lots of emotions (on Friday) and I felt sorry for the crowd that winning tickets didn’t come off.

“I knew the right horse was left in the gate in Space Blues and Yibir was the icing on the cake – he’s been galloping with all our best middle-distance three-year-olds.

“Next year this horse brings experience to the table in middle-distance races. We won’t be taking anything to Hong Kong, they will all have well-earned vacations.”

O’Brien said of his three runners: “Broome ran a great race and we thought he was in good form. He was just a bit lazy in front, while Ryan (Moore on Japan) got chopped and Frankie (Dettori) said Bolshoi Ballet was too babyish.”

Varian was pleased with Teona’s effort and said: “David gave her a great ride.

“It’s not an ideal track for her, but she ran a race of real credit. She’s a lengthener and we had to angle out, and didn’t have the acceleration to put the race to bed.”

Tarnawa was last seen when narrowly beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp last month, going down by just three-quarters of a length in testing conditions.

Jockey Colin Keane felt that French outing may have left its mark as the mare came home 11th.

He said: “She ran flat. I think France last time on very soft ground took plenty out of her. She seemed fine after the race.”

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