After a debut season at Taylor Made during which he covered a hefty book of better than 150 mares, Horse of the Year and five-time Grade I winner Knicks Go (Paynter) is champing at the bit to get back to work as breeding sheds open their doors across Central Kentucky. The Korea Racing Authority raced the gray to 10 victories over the course of four-plus seasons and earnings north of $9.2 million, and his first year at Taylor Made has led to even greater optimism for his second. The KRA’s Lee Joo-Win was generous enough to field a set of questions reflecting on last year and looking forward to 2023:
TDN: As a racehorse, you just don’t see things like what Knicks Go accomplished. Grade I winner at two and later at eight, nine and 10 furlongs, yet strikes as a horse that was perhaps underrated.
Lee Jin-Woo: Knicks Go‘s race record speaks for itself, as he is an Eclipse Award winner and was Longines #1 Racehorse in the world of 2021. He was a Grade I winner at two at Keeneland and also won Grade Is as a 4- and 5-year-old. He danced all the dances winning both the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic and GI Dirt Mile in strong wire-to-wire fashion. Our genetic research tells us speed can be genetically passed onto offspring and we are already getting great reviews from the early foal reports. Everyone says they are very athletic, well-balanced and smart foals so far.
TDN: How was Knicks Go selected as a yearling and why was it decided to race him in the U.S. instead of exporting him to Korea?
L J-W: K-Nicks is the genomic selection system made by the Korea Racing Authority. Genomic selection is a breeding technique that uses genomic data, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), to predict an individual’s breeding value for racing ability. Knicks Go was selected by K-Nicks at the 2017 Keeneland September sale. He had the highest breeding value among about 100 samples collected four weeks prior to the sale. His breeding value is 150, which is in the top 3% of the Thoroughbred population.
TDN: What stands out about Knicks Go as a physical specimen? Are there other attributes that make him desirable?
L J-W: As Brad Cox said after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Knicks Go is built for American dirt racing. In other words, he has innate precocity, speed and stamina. He’s a very well-balanced, athletic horse, correct, with a big walk. Knicks Go is an extremely intelligent horse that loved to train and race. As a middle-distance racehorse rather than a sprinter, he has tremendous turn of foot in his two-turn races. A large, strong heart and athletically superior conformation made this possible. If you watch his races, he was always able to put a few lengths on the competition coming out of the turn and that’s purely an athletic trait, being able to corner those turns at a high rate of speed. Also, Knicks Go was a very sound racehorse in his career and raced without Lasix as an older horse
TDN: What does Knicks Go offer from a pedigree standpoint?
L J-W: Knicks Go is an Awesome Again line, and free of A.P. Indy and Storm Cat in his pedigree, so he can be tried with a lot of different bloodlines through A.P. Indy and sons and grandsons as well as anything from the Storm Cat line. Very outstanding sires such as Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer have a moderate height and have well-balanced conformation, delivering excellent heritability.
TDN: Talk about his first book of mares (quantity and quality) that he covered in 2022 and how he adapted to life as a stallion.
L J-W: Knicks Go had a very strong book of 151 mares in his first year at stud. Both his CI and CPI ranked #3 amongst all stallions in his crop. He received very good support from all of the big commercial breeders in Central Kentucky and was very well backed by Taylor Made’s large client base of both commercial and breed-to-race customers. It can be a little bit of an adjustment coming straight into the breeding shed off the racetrack with only a few weeks in between. He settled in well after just a few weeks of breeding. He has great libido and fertility and is just as professional in the breeding shed as he was on the racetrack.
TDN: Can you tick off some of the breeders who patronized the stallion in his first year?
L J-W: We had a wonderful response from some top breeders, including Ashview Farm, Ballyrankin Stud, Bloodstock Investments, Joel Politi, Calumet Farm, Castleton Lyons, Clarkland Farm, Classic Bloodstock, Coteau Grove Farms, Crestwood Farm, Denali Stud, Watercress Farm, Machmer Hall, Manganaro Bloodstock, Narvick International, Allen Poindexter, Pollock Farms, Ramspring Farms, Rose Hill Farm, Runnymede Farm, Shawnee Farm, Spruce Lane Farm, St. George Stables, LLC, Stonehaven Steadings, Stoneriggs Farm, Town & Country, Parkland Thoroughbreds, Team Block, Walking L. Thoroughbreds and Woods Edge Farm (Peter O’Callaghan actually purchased Knicks Go as a weanling).
TDN: The list of sires set to be represented by their first foals in 2023 is formidable. How does Knicks Go fit in?
L J-W: We believe Knicks Go was the best racehorse to retire to stud in 2022. Knicks Go was a very precocious racehorse breaking his maiden first-time out in July of his 2-year-old year, won the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland by 5 1/2 lengths and ran a very game second to Game Winner in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He really thrived as an older horse under the training of Brad Cox and the switch to Joel Rosario. The more aggressive training and riding style was a natural fit that led to winning TWO different Breeders’ Cup races along with the historic GI Whitney H. at Saratoga in a romp and the GI Pegasus World Cup.
TDN: How do the KRA plan on supporting him at stud? Were they/are they involved in purchasing mares to breed to him? Will they be targeting his progeny at the sales?
L J-W: KRA is promoting the establishment of a joint venture in the U.S., and the venture will purchase Knicks Go‘s weanlings and yearlings. Mares that are suitable for Knicks Go based on our genetic system have also been purchased.
TDN: Are there any plans in place to stand KG in Korea?
L J-W: The KRA is committed to keeping Knicks Go in the United States and giving his progeny the opportunity to perform as racehorses. He will be given every chance to be a successful stallion in the United States. Just like any other stallion standing in Kentucky, the success of his progeny will be evaluated and that will determine his long-term future.