Grade 1 winner Knicks Go recorded his first victory since capturing the 2018 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland by leading throughout in a second-level allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park Feb. 22.
A finalist for the champion 2-year-old male of 2018—an Eclipse Award award that went to unbeaten juvenile Game Winner, who beat him that year in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs—Knicks Go faltered late in his 2-year-old season and throughout much of his 3-year-old year. After his runner-up finish to Game Winner, he ran 11th in the 2018 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, and then went 0-for-8 last year as a sophomore, though he did manage seconds in the Ellis Park Derby and a fall allowance race at Keeneland for KRA Stud Farm and trainer Ben Colebrook.
Racing Saturday for new trainer Brad Cox and owner Korea Racing Authority, Knicks Go showed his customary early speed before drawing away by 7 1/2 lengths under Joe Talamo. The gray 4-year-old son of Paynter , bred by Angie Moore in Maryland, raced 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.57, paying $8. He is out of the Outflanker mare Kosmo's Buddy.
Bye Bye J Fresh in Comeback
In other action Saturday at Oaklawn, Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's Bye Bye J, making her first start since last May, pleased the estimated on-track crowd of 15,000 by winning the $125,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-breds as the heavy 3-5 favorite.
Ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. in her first start for trainer Steve Asmussen, Bye Bye J ($3.20) assumed a stalking position after breaking from post nine and proceeded to track Matapan through early fractions of :22.78 and :46.60 for the first half-mile. The winner gained control at the top of the stretch and drew away from runner-up Matapan to win by 1 ½ lengths with a time of 1:10.50 for six furlongs over a fast track.
Georgia's Reward finished third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Matapan.
The Downthedustyroad, named in honor of the grade 1-winning Arkansas-bred filly trained by Bob Baffert, was Bye Bye J's second Oaklawn stakes victory following last year's Rainbow Stakes for then-trainer Ron Moquett. Overall, the 4-year-old Uncaptured filly has a record of 5-1-1 in nine career starts and has earned $298,105.
"I was really holding my breath because I knew she wasn't cranked down," co-owner Alex Lieblong said. "And, when you step up to this, these are some nice horses and you need to be cranked down a little bit. But, Steve and the team did a marvelous job."