Strong Quality Triumphs in Knicks Go Stakes

LOUISVILLE, Ky – May 4, 2024 – As rain transformed Churchill Downs into a muddy battleground this Oaks Day, the adverse conditions couldn’t dampen the spirits of the team behind Strong Quality, who clinched a victory in the $200,000 Knicks Go Stakes by half a length over Kupuna.

Previously more familiar with the turf, Strong Quality was back on the main track for the first time since a commendable third-place finish on a muddy surface at the Tinsel Stakes at Oaklawn Park last year. This race marked his first local outing since he outclassed a field of high-priced optional-claimers and allowance competitors by 9 1/4 lengths last fall.

With Florent Geroux, his regular jockey, at the reins, Strong Quality quickly took the lead, charging inside past Five Star General after a brisk 22.36-second opening quarter-mile. Maintaining a strong pace, he completed the half-mile in 44.64 seconds. Entering the stretch with a clear lead, Strong Quality was resolute, facing a fierce challenge from Kupuna. Under Geroux’s vigorous urging, he held firm to secure the win.

Kupuna, threading through mid-pack, made a wide bid exiting the turn and posed a significant threat in the final stretch but ultimately fell short, finishing strongly as the runner-up. Five Star General faded to third, 4 3/4 lengths behind, with Best Actor, the 8-5 favorite, ending up a distant fifth.

Strong Quality, a Mark Casse trainee representing the partnership of Gary Barber and Kinsman Stable, completed the race in 1:35.45 on a track officially listed as good, returning $13.02 on a win bet.

Mark Casse shared his strategic musings pre-race, hinting at the favorable conditions despite wishing for an even wetter track. “I told Florent in the paddock I wished the track had even a little more moisture in it, but it certainly didn’t hurt our feelings any when it came up wet,” Casse remarked. The decision to race on dirt rather than opt for the Turf Classic later in the day was deliberated thoroughly with Gary Barber, reflecting their tactical approach and ultimately validating their choice with this significant win.

Today’s victory at the Knicks Go Stakes demonstrates Strong Quality’s versatility and prowess on different track conditions and solidifies his standing as a formidable competitor in this racing season.

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