G1 Manhattan or G2 Belmont Gold Cup Options for Red Knight

May 14, 2023

Veteran Red Knight after his G1 score in the Man o’ War (Susie Raisher)

NYRA Press Office

ELMONT, N.Y.— At 9 years young, seasoned veteran Red Knight earned his first Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s $600,000 Man o’ War at Belmont Park, and trainer Mike Maker said the Pure Prize gelding could be back for more high-caliber action during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival with the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan at 1 1/4 miles on June 10 and the Grade 2, $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup at 2 miles on June 9 under consideration.

“We’ll let the horse decide,” Maker said. “He came out of the race well and ate up last night. If I had to enter today, he’d be a go. He’s doing really well.”

Owned and bred in New York by Tom Egan’s Trinity Farm, Red Knight became only the third 9-year-old horse to win a Grade 1 flat race on the NYRA circuit according to stats provided by Equibase. In doing so, he joined the great John Henry who captured the 1984 Turf Classic at Belmont for Hall of Famer Ron McAnally and John’s Call, who won the 2000 Sword Dancer and 2000 Turf

Classic. Additionally, Red Knight’s Man o’ War triumph marked the 14th straight year that a New York-bred horse has won a Grade 1 event.

Previously conditioned by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Red Knight has now won four times since Maker took over training duties last summer. After emerging from an 11-month layoff to capture his Maker debut in July’s Colonial Cup at Colonial Downs, he parlayed his winning form to Kentucky Downs for the Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup before a pair of unplaced efforts at Keeneland in the Grade 3 Sycamore and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf to close out the year.

He returned to action with vigor, coming from last-of-11 to win his 2023 debut in the Grade 3 William L. McKnight on January 28 at Gulfstream Park. He entered the Man o’ War off a narrow runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 22 at Keeneland, missing a head to fellow Man o’ War contestant Verstappen, who finished seventh.

Red Knight was also possible for next Saturday’s Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill Downs, but Maker opted for another try at Grade 1 success.

Love for Red Knight after his big win (Dom Napolitano)

“You don’t get too many opportunities at a Grade 1, so we chose to run in the Man o’ War and we’re glad that we did,” Maker said. “He’s always run well fresh and he came out of his race at Keeneland in very good shape.”

The well-traveled Red Knight has found the winner’s circle over seven different racetracks but has garnered the most success at Belmont where he has won five times.

“We’ve been to Colonial Downs with Red, to Kentucky Downs, Keeneland, Gulfstream Park, back to Keeneland. But here, Belmont Park, seems like home to me. And I know Red has raced here 10 times himself so it’s like home to him also,” said Egan on Saturday.

Red Knight endured a lengthy hiatus after finishing sixth in August 2021 in the John’s Call at Saratoga. The chestnut spent extended time with Chad Stewart in Ocala, Florida, before returning victorious in July.

“At the beginning of September [2021], he was laid up with Chad and he said, ‘Tom I don’t know, I think the horse could be done,’” Egan recalled. “So, we turned him out for 90 days and we put him back in training to see if there was anything there. Chad, after a week, said, ‘He’s not doing it, Tom,’ so we tried one more week and he said, ‘Tom, he wants to be a racehorse.’”

Egan got in touch with Maker to see if he would take up training duties for Red Knight, who had bested the conditioner’s Grade 1-winning turf stayer Zulu Alpha on more than one occasion.

“I had observed that he does very, very well with older grass horses. He’s made all the difference in the world with this horse, so I’m very appreciative of him,” Egan said.

Egan said he let Maker make the call on Red Knight’s next outing.

“The Manhattan is obviously a great race,” Egan said. “The thing about having a 9-year-old is – does he need to go to a farm for 2-3 weeks just to clear his head?”

Red Knight is out of the Skip Away mare Isabel Away and has amassed $1,717,763 in earnings through a 34-12-9-1 record.

“I enjoy the fresh take and straight shooting from Jonathan Stettin in his Past the Wire column.”

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