King Cause Reigns the Wire in G3 Knickerbocker

October 9, 2022

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Nice Guys Stables’ King Cause may have been the oldest horse in a 10-horse field, but the 7-year-old son of Creative Cause pulled off a 14-1 upset to land his first graded stakes victory for trainer Mike Maker in Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Knickerbocker for 3-year-olds and up traveling nine furlongs over the inner turf at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet. 

Ridden to victory by Kendrick Carmouche, King Cause made his 33rd lifetime outing in the Knickerbocker, arriving from a close runner-up effort in a September 14 handicap at Kentucky Downs. The win was his third this year, adding to an optional-claiming score two starts back at Del Mar and a stakes win over synthetic in the Kentucky Cup Classic in April at Turfway Park.  

Breaking sharply from post 4, King Cause was rushed up to the front by Carmouche to establish command exiting the chute, claiming a one-length advantage over last year’s Queen’s Plate winner Safe Conduct with multiple graded stakes winner Pixelate in third through an opening quarter-mile in 25.33 seconds over the firm turf. 

Photo by Chelsea Durand

The field bunched up into the first turn, causing Eons to steady, but King Cause remained well clear to lead the field to the half-mile call in 50.90. With the field separating more down the backstretch, Safe Conduct and Pixelate inched closer as Field Pass was ready to make his move on the outside from fourth position. King Cause came under light coaxing from Carmouche through three-quarters in 1:14.87 and began to draw away from his rivals, maintaining a steady rhythm as the field rounded the final turn. 

King Cause, under right-handed encouragement from Carmouche, sprinted down the lane with a clear advantage and held off the all-out duo of Pixelate and Safe Conduct, posting the two-length victory in a final time of 1:50.06. 

Pixelate was game to the wire and got up in time to nail Safe Conduct by a nose and secure place honors. Field Pass finished a neck back in fourth with Public Sector, Lonesome Fugitive, Eons, Pao Alto, Dynadrive and L’Imperator rounding out the order of finish. 

Steve Spielman of Nice Guys Stables said he believed in his horse. 

“He was in good form and his numbers fit here. We thought he had a good shot,” said Spielman. “He’s had some bad racing luck, but the horse always puts a good effort in. He likes to be on the front end, and he got the right trip and Kendrick did a great job. He got the right fractions and he’s tough when he’s on the lead at the top of the stretch.”

Spielman said that King Cause is no stranger to beating the odds, recalling how the dark bay overcome an illness that almost claimed his life after a win at Saratoga in August of 2020. 

“He ships well. He’s an amazing horse. He got real sick awhile back and we saved his life. He was out for over a year and he’s paid us back in spades,” said Spielman. “I’ve got to thank Burleson Farm for putting all this time into keeping this horse alive. He had a rare infection that they couldn’t get rid of. It was right after the Saratoga race. This horse has come back and rewarded us. He’s the gift that keeps giving.”

Now an eight-time winner from 33 starts, King Cause had previously contested seven graded events but failed to hit the board, his best finish a fourth in the 2018 Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby. This year, the veteran gelding has held good form, finishing in-the-money in 6-of-9 starts, including his two stakes victories and a troubled third-place finish in the Bensalem Match Series in June at Parx. Since joining Maker last September, he has hit the board eight times from 12 starts. 

Kendrick Carmouche. Photo by Susie Raisher

Carmouche, who rode King Cause in the Bensalem Match Series, said he was appreciative for the opportunity to ride him again. 

“I’m just glad Mike Maker gave me a shot back on this horse,” said Carmouche. “In Philadelphia, I rode this horse and got bottled up a little. I thought he should have won then.

“Coming into today’s race, [there was] not a lot of speed,” Carmouche added. “I figured let me break sharp and see where I’m at. Those guys took a hold, and I was able to walk as slow as I can and make myself a winner. He exploded home. After those fractions, you have to expect him to come home fast.”

Bred in Kentucky by Bret Jones, King Cause banked $82,500 in victory, boosting his total purse earnings to $601,228. He returned $32.80 for a $2 win wager. 

Jose Ortiz, aboard the Mike Stidham-trained runner-up Pixelate, said he knew King Cause was a threat after riding him to a victory at the Big A last November. 

“Mike’s instructions were to break running and be as close as I could,” Ortiz said. “I felt I was following a good horse [King Cause]. I rode that horse one time here and he loved it. I was happy with my position throughout the race, but the winner was much the best today and I was second best.”

Live racing resumes Thursday at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet with a nine-race card. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

By Mary Eddy 
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Jonathan Stettin is a New York Legend. He's been a Horseplayer, earning his living at the track, since he was 19 years old. @jonathanstettin

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