Standout 5-year-old horse Knicks Go, last seen finishing fourth in the Saudi Cup on Feb. 20, will return in an unlikely spot on May 31 – the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park.

Knicks Go opened his 5-year-old campaign winning the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. He returns to action three months after a fourth-place Saudi Cup finish in the May 31 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park. (Image: Coglianese Photos)

Trainer Brad Cox announced Knicks Go’s next go-moment during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association call on Thursday. Lone Star Park in the Dallas suburbs isn’t exactly center stage for one of the top older horses in North America.

But Cox sees the Grade 3, two-turn mile as the perfect return engagement for the Paynter offspring.

“We feel he’s better around two turns. It’s a graded stakes, and I feel like it’s a great opportunity, or a great race to get him started back post-Middle East,” Cox said on the call. “Once again, you’re hopeful that they come back and perform after the long trip on the other side of the world.”

Recovery time crucial after worldly travels

That’s always a concern for horses returning from winter sojourns halfway around the world. Some recover better than others. Some struggle to find their previous form.

In Knicks Go’s case, he needed all the time off Cox could give him. Knicks Go came into the 1 1/8-mile Saudi Cup with the invincible aura of a runaway freight train. A month earlier, he captured the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. That came barely two months after he blitzed the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile field by 3 ½ lengths in record time.

A month before that, in early October, Knicks Go dissected an allowance optional claiming field at Keeneland by 10 ¼ lengths. That race brought Knicks Go back from a 7 ½-month layoff following a February allowance optional claiming victory at Oaklawn Park.

Saudi Cup a bridge too far for Knicks Go

The Saudi Cup’s nine furlongs seemed to be a race too far. Knicks Go and Charlatan were the overwhelming favorites for the $20 million race, the two pacesetters, and the race’s primary speed. But their speed duel wiped out Knicks Go in early stretch and took enough out of Charlatan for English horse Mishriff to pull the upset. He passed both down the stretch for the victory.

Meanwhile, Knicks Go finished fourth, 8 ½ lengths back.

Since then, Cox put Knicks Go through four April workouts at Churchill Downs. His most recent, a moderate 1:02.00 clocking for five furlongs on April 30.

His most impressive: a bullet 36.6-second clocking for three furlongs on April 9. That was his first work since the Saudi Cup.

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