Racing Like Knicks Go: The 70-1 Long Shot in All of Us

We can all appreciate a long shot when it comes to sports betting, and lessons can be learned from underdog horse Knicks Go.

Updated: Jan. 16, 2019 • 8:50 AM ET


Eclipse Awards are only reserved for horse racing's finest.

I love a long shot. In the world of gaming, it’s also known as a boxcar price, the origin of the term being uncertain. As far as I can tell, it comes from the Depression Era when train cars were labeled with long numbers since there were too many to count. Trains, which offered mobility, and hobo culture were vibrant then, and nicknames were given to all sorts of things from “cooties” for body lice to “flophouses” for cheap hotels. Someone along the way equated those numerals with prices at the horse track, and the moniker became equated with long odds.

I’m sure it’s like anything that enters our lexicon like “o.k.” or “cool.” Once it sticks, that’s it.

Boxcar prices were significant in the 1930s because those horses brought big payoffs to those dreaming of wealth and a better life. They’re still enticing even today, because they pay such high dividends.

Eat your heart out Rich Uncle Pennybags.

It doesn’t matter how big the price, 60-1 or 70-1. I like them.

Eagerly awaiting the annual Eclipse Awards, which will mete Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park, my anticipation built for the event this past month. It’s like having the Golden Globes in a really nice stable. I wanted to see the tally of finalists, not necessarily whether Justify or Accelerate was nominated for Horse of the Year, or if Mike Smith and the Ortiz Brothers would compete for the greatest jockey category. Rather, I wanted to see if a two-year-old named Knicks Go made it.

And, he did! Knicks Go made the list!

Coached by Ben Colebrook, still a relative newcomer in this long game as a trainer, and owned by the Korean Racing Association syndicate, a group you might not be familiar with, Knicks Go’s 2018 couldn’t be more impressive.

That’s one of the great aspects of this sport. Any person or group can own a racehorse. You probably cannot sign checks in the name of the Yankees or Patriots, but pretty much anyone with some cash can buy a share or two in a horse.

It’s egalitarian — a Jeffersonian vision that is alive and well in the history of sport. That’s what the ownership of Knicks Go did.

Going into Keeneland’s Fall Meet, Colebrook slated the two-year-old for the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, a G1 race that usually draws a big field. The race is one of the stepping-stones to the Breeders’ Cup, which is held in early November — signposts along the pre-Derby Trail.

On that beautiful Keeneland day, the jockey of Knicks Go, Albin Jimenez, had one mission: go to the lead. And, that’s precisely what he did.

See the race here:

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By the first turn, Knicks Go’s quickness and power was on display. By the end of the race, he had left the field, winning by several lengths. It was a command performance for a horse that was so unheralded. And oh, did I mention that he was 70-1?

In an instant, Knicks Go cemented a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. At historic Churchill Downs under the twin spires, the now 40-1 shot came in second, a nice showing, to say the least.

I remember when Amazon traded below $50 per share, the year Troy Aikman lost every game he played in during his rookie season and when somebody told me that this guy was making a musical about Alexander Hamilton. I think human beings want to look for the diamond in the rough, the tough spot that probably will not make. That’s one of the quintessential aspects that drives this sport and for that matter, life.

This spring, Knicks Go’s life will take another step towards greatness when he makes his debut, probably at Tampa Bay Downs in the Sam F. Davis. The rub, though, is that he may never be 70-1 ever again. If he keeps winning, the long shot, the boxcar price and the notion of impossibility won’t exist any longer.

Frankly, there’s something sad about that. After the Breeders’ Cup place finish, he didn’t hit the board in his final race of the year. I was secretly happy about that. In fact, he was 2-1 on the morning line.

Knicks Go wasn’t a boxcar price anymore, but that’s horse racing for you, folks. It’s full of peaks and valleys. The unpredictability diffuses one’s ability to regularly say, “I had it!” What you learn to do is pick your spots. Find the horse that you can back and stay with them through it all. That’s difficult; it’s like playing the stock market, which can be difficult in terms of knowing when to sell.

Imagine owning a race horse…I can’t fathom it. To live and die by the next race would be agony mixed with some poetic justice.

In the end, I think I will stick with backing the long shot at the window. I ache for the 70-1 because it’s an opportunity to find something that is truly fleeting. If your horse keeps winning, you won’t see that price ever again!

As for the Eclipse Awards, I’ll root for Knicks Go. Perhaps we’ll see him on the first Saturday in May.

You never know, maybe he’ll be 70-1 again. I can dream.