In a stunning wire-to-wire performance, Knicks Go won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity by 5 ½ lengths on Oct. 6 at Keeneland to become the first Grade 1 winner by first-crop sire Paynter (by Awesome Again).
Sent off at 70-1 odds largely because he had been beaten into fifth in the G3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, then finished third in the listed Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 8, Knicks Go has now won two of his four starts and simply outran his opponents to win the G1 stakes and earn a place in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile next month.
Bloodstock consultant Jun Park, who works with the Korea Racing Authority in selecting horses, said: “Knicks Go had been training well at Keeneland, and that was the reason we wanted to try this race. He will definitely be going to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile,” where the chairman of the KRA will be in attendance also.
Racing in the name of KRA Stud Farm, Knicks Go is part of a long-term plan by the KRA to improve their racing and breeding stock and to make Korean-bred Thoroughbreds more internationally prominent. A racing organization that has long been recognized for its international interest and long-term planning, the KRA is a multi-layer entity that has put a significant number of important people to work on this strategic plan. A key component of the overall plan is a genetic-testing program developed by Jin Woo Lee of the KRA.
“They developed their own genetic test in Korea,” Park said, and as part of this approach, “I go to the farms before the sale, collect the hair samples for them, and we submit those to the company that analyzes the genomes. It takes at least three weeks to analyze the entire genome. In that regard, it's much different from the companies that take samples and run the genetic results overnight.”
The goal of this sophisticated process, Park said, “is to buy potential stallion prospects as yearlings, then prove them by running in the United States. The Breeders' Futurity was the right circumstance.”
Winning a G1 race to prove a potential stallion's quality “is their purpose in doing this,” Park said “and they consider a lot of other factors, but they want a good stallion. That is their main goal. According to them, the stallion prospect will have good genes to transfer to the foal; so it would succeed as a stallion, as well.”
Park noted that the “person in charge of the genetics operation is the inventor, Jin Woo Lee,” who also developed the quite user-friendly KRA website, and the Breeders' Futurity winner is named for this genetics program – “K” Nicks.
Knicks Go is one of two yearlings that the KRA bought in 2017 to race in the U.S., and he is meeting all expectations and then some.
Bred in Maryland by Angie Moore, Knicks Go was sent to the 2016 Keeneland November sale as a foal and sold for $40,000 out of Bill Reightler's consignment to Northface Bloodstock. The colt was resold the following September at Keeneland through Woods Edge Farm and brought $87,000 from the Korea Racing Authority.
When the KRA came over to purchase Knicks Go at the September sale, they brought a crew of professionals from the organization to inspect the yearlings and finalize the list. After they were successful in acquiring Knicks Go, “we sent him to Nick deMeric, who broke the colt in Florida and took him through his early training. Knicks Go looked like a nice prospect fairly early,” Park said.
UPDATE: Sporting the owner line of KRA Stud Farm, Knicks Go will continue to race here in the States, and then, once the colt's racing career is over, Park reports, the KRA would like to stand a stallion here in the U.S. With proven G1 merit and the genetics to back up his potential as a sire, Knicks Go could fit the profile for this brave new venture of international racing and breeding.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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