Red Knight tenaciously gets the win in the McKnight under Irad Ortiz Jr. (Ryan Thompson)
David Joseph/Gulfstream Park
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Mike Maker managed to top his previous four victories in the $150,000 William L. McKnight (G3) presented by Davidoff Cigars Saturday by saddling the top three finishers in Saturday’s 1 ½-mile turf stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Trinity Farm’s 9-year-old Red Knight ($8.60) won the McKnight by a length over stablemate Value Engineering, who went off at 10-1. It was another length back to 45-1 long shot Wicked Fast with another Maker-trained horse, Temple, running fifth.
The McKnight was the third of seven graded stakes on the 13-race blockbuster Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat program that includes the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Qatar Racing and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G3) presented by Pepsi.
Maker picked up his first McKnight win in 2017 and repeated in 2018. His runners finished first and second in the 2019 and 2021 editions of the race.
Red Knight, Trinity Farm’s homebred son of Pure Prize, earned his 11th victory in 32 career starts. He spent the early years of his career with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and was transferred to Maker’s care in 2022. He has three wins in five starts for Maker.
Bidding to repeat in the McKnight, the favorite Abaan, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, quickly grabbed the lead in the three-turn test and led the way early with a quarter-mile in 24.18 seconds. Agitare moved up to provide pace pressure and the half-mile was run in 48.27 with three-quarters going in 1:12.67.
Red Knight and other closers arrived in the stretch, moved into contention and surged to the lead. The winning time was 2:25.11 over a firm course.
$150,000 William L. McKnight (G3) Quotes
Winning trainer Mike Maker (Red Knight): “[Jockey] Irad [Ortiz Jr.] had Red Knight settled in the back of the pace. The pace was hot, which favored him. The rest is history.
“I had a lot of confidence in him. The first time he ran for us, he hadn’t run in a year and won. He likes to run fresh. He loves his job.”
“One, two, three and five. We just missed the superfecta. Every horse ran a great race and I’m proud.”
Winning Irad Ortiz Jr. (Red Knight): “Thank God I had a good trip from tough post 11; he’s perfect for the distance because he relaxes very well. With five furlongs to go he started to gain ground on the outside and I just let him do his thing.”
“This one’s really special because my family is here. My wife, my parents and my daughters are all here with me. They are my driving force, what keeps me going day after day, all supporting me 100 percent of the time.”