Several weeks ago when Del Mar Race Course in Southern California hosted the Breeders Cup World Championships, nearly a dozen horses with ties to the Mid-Atlantic region competed for instant fame and glory on both turf and dirt and at least one of them had used Charles Town as a springboard to a possible division title.
Heading into the Breeders Cup Classic, much of the attention was focused on several horses trained by Brad Cox, Knicks Go and Essential Quality and tainted Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. Charles Town Classic winner Art Collector also got solid support, but it was sophomore Essential Quality who was made the 9-5 favorite.
When the gates opened in the Breeders Cup Classic, Knicks Go broke alertly to gain the early advantage, and Art Collector attempted to stay with him through serious early splits of 23, 45.3 and 1:10 flat through the first three calls. While Knicks Go still appeared to have plenty in reserve entering the far turn, Art Collector began to fade after attempting to keep pace with the loose leader and the Charles Town Classic hero was not a factor in the lane.
Knicks Go, however, was on his game once again and the honest early splits did not phase him. In fact, Knicks Go held safe Medina Spirit in the lane for a three-length score while stopping the timer in 1:59.57 for the one-mile and one-quarter affair. A Maryland-bred, five-year-old son of Paynter trained by Brad Cox for Korea Racing, Knicks Go concluded the year with five wins and over $7.3 million banked from seven starts and likely secured Horse of the Year honors with his latest triumph.
Hero of the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile one year earlier, Knicks Go is no stranger to postseason accolades. Although being named horse of he year will be his biggest achievement, Knicks Go arrived as the defending Maryland-bred horse of the year, an honor he will easily attain for a second-straight season and third time in his first four years of racing.
Art Collector may have settled for sixth in the Breeders Cup Classic, but the four-year-old Bernardini stallion parlayed his victory in the Grade II Charles Town Classsic into a triumph in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. Trained by Bill Mott for owner-breeder Bruce Lunsford, Art Collector won three of five starts during his 2021 campaign and now sports eight wins and over $1.6 million banked from 16 career outings.
Several races earlier in the $2 million Breeders Cup Sprint, Aloha West rallied from well off the pace and widest of all to forge an 11-1 upset. A Maryland-bred, four-year-old son of Hard Spun trained by Wayne Catalano, Aloha West recorded his fifth win in nine lifetime starts and pushed his career earnings past $1.3 million by getting the six furlongs in 1:08.49.
Aloha West was bred by Katy Voss and the late Robert Manfuso, who passed away earlier this year. Prior to winning the Breeders Cup Sprint, Aloha West had finished second in the Grade II Phoenix at Keeneland, but before that he had honed his talents in various allowance races in New York. Dismissed at 11-1, Aloha West trailed through the early stages, commenced his rally entering the far turn, angled widest of all and nailed Dr. Schivel at the wire for a nose triumph.
One day earlier when Del Mar offered a quartet of Breeders Cup events for two-year-olds on both turf and dirt, one of the freshman colts in the Juvenile was bred in Virginia and departed with minor spoils. Oviatt Class, a Bernardini colt trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Kent Desormeaux, finished in a dead-heat for fifth with Pinehurst as Corniche (Mike Smith) scored as the 7-5 choice.
The Virginia-bred graduated at third asking in a one-mile maiden special weight at Del Mar on Aug. 27 then was third in the Grade I American Pharoah and sports earnings of nearly $140,000 from five lifetime tries.