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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By NYRA Press StaffBrad Cox, trainer of Knicks Go (No. 4, 6-5 morning line favorite): “He’s given us as much confidence coming into this race as he has any of his other ones. We were really high on this horse going into the Met Mile. We used the Cornhusker just to remind us that it’s the two turns that he needs, and he showed us in his last race that it was. He’s had three works at Ellis [Park] and he’s set up for a big effort.

“He’s very fast. It’s a mile and an eighth and it’s a demanding track. He’s got to get around there. But I think if he has things his way he’ll be a tough horse. He’s doing well. “We just had the one start and then he was sidelined with an issue and missed a good bit of time. So, we got him back last summer. He’s a nice horse. He’s always been a good horse. He was a Grade 1 winner at 2. He was second to Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill at 2. He’s always had quality and talent. He really is doing what a horse is supposed to do, get better, stronger and faster as they get older.

“Now, when a horse accomplishes what he did at 2, it’s [usually] off to the breeding shed they go so you don’t get a real line on if they’re going to improve. He’s a little bit of a throwback horse in regards to being around, accomplishing things early and still being in training three years later. “It’s a five-horse field with four Grade 1 winners and another horse that’s knocked on the door in several Grade 1s. It’s a very good group of horses. “There’s always a little bit of a concern with a bounce but he’s gotten five weeks. He’s trained well, he’s shipped up and he looks phenomenal so I’m optimistic that he’s going to run his race, and he’ll need to. 

“If you look back, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile there was a horse that tried to go with him. There was a horse that tried to go with him in the Pegasus. Last start there was a horse that tried to go with him. They just can’t keep up. It’s a gift that he has and Joel [Rosario] has been able to let him run within himself but very quickly, and he’s able to continue on. We’ll just see how it goes. We’ll see how the racetrack’s playing and go from there. “I think we worked him twice after the Met Mile and I actually thought about maybe supplementing him to the Stephen Foster. I thought, well if I can wait one more week I’ll get another work in him and run him at Prairie Meadows, it’ll balance out well and give us time to get him back home and get him ready for the Whitney. He was doing well enough, and the Cornhusker was kind of confirmation that he does need the two turns. For whatever reason, he’s just not a one-turn horse.”

Brendan Walsh, trainer of Maxfield (No. 5, 8-5): That’s a good draw for us. We’ll be happy with that. He’s generally been toward the outside anyway in his races, so it’s fine. “The horse is doing great. He hasn’t put a foot wrong since the Stephen Foster. It’s a tough race. There’s some very, very good horses in there. It’s going to be a huge test for him, and for everybody else. “I couldn’t be happier with him going in, so there will be no excuses from a conditioning point of view. We’ve gotten to do all the work we wanted to do and it all went well. The horse looks great, so we can’t ask for more than that. “We worked him on the main track twice, and he’s galloped on it a bunch. I thought he handled it really well the other day, in his last work. I thought he looked very good.” 

Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA, the owner of Maxfield (No. 5): “He’s just had a great preparation. All things are go and we’re looking forward to it. We knew we had a talented horse. We were almost surprised with physically how he was able to do things as a 2 and 3-year-old. It always felt like he’d be a super 4 year old. With [trainer] Brendan’s [Walsh] patience and time, he’s now running a race that is circled on the map as being one of the biggest objectives here. We’re happy to be here in good form.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of Silver State (No. 2, 4-1): “The two-draw is ideal for him. Nothing but respect for the rest of them. There’s not a throw out in the race. Whoever wins the race is going to have to have things go their way to show their best. I think the way the racetrack is playing, and the weather, is a factor at Saratoga.

“I would like the horse to get away cleanly; enough to make them adjust to him and go from there. I think the one turn in the Met Mile allowed Silver State to stay closer to the race and that’s what we really appreciated about the one turn. The concern is if he can stay comfortable and in contact around the first turn on Saturday.”

Kenneth McPeek, trainer of Swiss Skydiver (No. 3, 6-1): “I think she’s a little bigger and stronger than last year. She’s as steady as it goes. She’s moving as well as she ever has. When we worked her in company she’s been devastating to the other company. That’s what she’s going to have to do Saturday.
“What gives me confidence is that she’s doing really well right now. She’s solid and when you look at the numbers in the race, she fits in some way shape or form. The winner is going to have to run its best race anyway. That’s what these races are made for. 

“With the way the ball has bounced the past month, we really wanted to get her back in the game. Unfortunately, the quarantine issue slowed us down a little bit. She’s doing super. We’ve taken on the colts before, but certainly not older horses and ones not as talented and established as this group.

“We’re excited. She’s doing super and she’s won here before [the 2020 Grade 1 Alabama]. It will be a fun weekend. “She capable of firing fresh. Her workouts have been as strong as ever. I keep saying it, but she’s doing really well.”
On Swiss Skydiver looking to become first filly to win the Whitney since Hall of Famer Personal Ensign in 1988: 

“Honestly, I really haven’t put much thought into filly or colt. She’s doing well and it’s really the only race she’s eligible for. She was unable to run in the Shuvee on the 25th so we were in the position of where do we run her? Certainly, in a five-horse field for a million dollars on a racetrack she’s won over and she’s doing well, and she’s here, we’ll see what happens. We’ve always been game.

“I think everyone gets interested when a girl runs against the boys. I want to get her back to racing and there’s no filly race until late August (Personal Ensign) otherwise. Who is to say I can’t use this race as a prep for the Personal Ensign? If she wins it, we’ll go to the [Jockey Club] Gold Cup [September 4]. If she doesn’t, maybe we’ll go to the Personal Ensign [on Travers Day August 28].”

On Irad Ortiz, Jr. picking up the mount for the first time: “He was open in the race and he’s obviously a top rider here in New York. We’ve had some other people here who’ve done a good job on her but she’s never needed a regular jockey, or her racetrack. You can take her about anywhere or ride her with anybody.”

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