Even Brad Cox understands how the avoid Bob Baffert game is played, which explains why he moved his star older horse, Knicks Go, to the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. That June 5 race is the first-among-equals Grade 1 on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Knicks Go-Met Mile
With no Charlatan awaiting him in the gate, Knicks Go becomes the likely favorite for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on the June 5 Belmont Stakes undercard. That race is one of the top mile events in the country. (Image: Coady Photography)

Cox originally targeted Knicks Go for the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park on Memorial Day. He told the Daily Racing Form via text that he called the audible because Baffert’s star 4-year-old, Charlatan, won’t be at Belmont Park.

Baffert had the Met Mile on Charlatan’s itinerary since the spring. But the colt suffered an undisclosed setback last week. He stopped training and reposed to a Kentucky farm.

Of course, the avoid Baffert game is easier to play these days, especially in New York, where the Hall of Fame trainer is suspended from running or stalling horses. The New York Racing Association-imposed ban came after Baffert’s Kentucky Derby champion Medina Spirit tested positive for excessive amounts of betamethasone.

The Met Mile field just got better with Knicks Go

Cox didn’t respond to a text from OG News seeking comment on Knicks Go’s move.

Knicks Go immediately adds cachet to one of the top mile events in the country. He joins a strong list of Met Mile contenders, including Silver State, Mischievious Alex, Dr Post, and Lexitonian. Ny Traffic and Rushie are also possible runners.

He adds that cachet coming out of his fourth-place finish in the $20 million Saudi Cup. That snapped a four-race winning streak that included the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last November and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January. Cox played the avoiding Baffert game after watching Charlatan finish second in the Saudi Cup to European contender Mishriff.

Besides Knicks Go, Cox has a full festival plate

Cox will be one of the busier trainers during the June 3-5 Belmont Racing Festival. Aside from Knicks Go, the Eclipse Award-winning conditioner sends Essential Quality into the Belmont Stakes as the presumed favorite. The DRF reported Cox’s Shedaresthedevil and Bonny South are both entered in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. Travel Column – last seen finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks – will run the Grade 1 Acorn.

Those two filly and mare races are on the Belmont Stakes undercard, as is the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, where you’ll likely see Cox’s Caddo River. The one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful dials back to seven furlongs for the sprint.