Presious Passion Leads Strong Cast in W.L. McKnight Saturday
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (December 16, 2010) – Patricia Generazio’s charismatic 7-year-old gelding Presious Passion is a multiple Grade 1 winner with career earnings of nearly $2.7 million, and is set to start in Saturday’s G2 $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Casino & Race Course for the fourth consecutive year, bidding for a third victory in the 12-furlong test facing nine 3-year-olds and up, including two other Grade 1 winners.
Regular jockey Elvis Trujillo rides Presious Passion for trainer Mary Hartmann as the Florida-bred chestnut attempts to make his first visit to the winner’s circle since capturing the G2 Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February. A trip to Dubai the next month for the G1 $2 million Sheema Classic in late March didn’t go well as he obviously didn’t care for the less than firm course conditions, finishing last of 16.
Presious Passion won the W.L. McKnight in 2007 and 2008 and his bid for the ‘Three-Peat’ last December was thwarted by getting caught in an early speed duel with a runoff rival and finishing fifth as Cloudy’s Knight went on to victory with Winchester third.
However, ‘Presious’ went into that race at the end of his best season that included two Grade 1 wins in the United Nations at Monmouth Park and Clement Hirsch Invitational at Santa Anita before a game second in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita behind European champion Conduit, beaten a half-length.
In three starts since the long trip to Dubai, Presious Passion has finished third in the G3 Monmouth Stakes in June, fourth in an allowance at Delaware Park in September and ninth last out in the G3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 21 after setting the pace in the 12-furlong test run over ground officially termed ‘firm’ but possibly less than that as the final time was 2:30 3/5.
The other Grade 1 winners entered in the 39th edition of the W.L. McKnight are Alex and Joanne Lieblong’s 6-year-old Telling with Eibar Coa aboard for trainer Steve Hobby and Javier Castellano to ride Casa Farms LLC’s 3-year-old ridgling Prince Will I Am for trainer Michelle Nihei.
Telling is a well-bred A.P. Indy horse specializing in long distance turf stakes during a career highlighted by back-to-back victories in the 12-furlong G1 Sword Dancer Invitational the last two summers at Saratoga. Telling finished sixth last out in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
Prince Will I Am also made his last start in a Breeders’ Cup race, but got much more publicity as he finished second in the G3 $500,000 Marathon on Nov. 5 run at 1 ¾ miles, but was disqualified to 10th for interference after a rough stretch run. The son of Victory Gallop had won the G1 Jamaica Handicap on turf at Belmont Park in his previous start on Oct. 9.
Also certain to attract some support in this strong field are Stuart Janney III and Phipps’ Stable’s 4-year-old Rescue Squad with Jesus Castanon named to ride for trainer Shug McGaughey and Patricia and Ronald Nicholson’s 6-year-old gelding Bold Hawk and Paco Lopez in the saddle for trainer Jimmy Toner. The two finished second and third, respectively, last out in the 11-furlong G2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 6.
Trainer Roger Attfield sent out Spice Route to finish second in the race last year behind Cloudy’s Knight and has a solid contender in Saturday’s renewal in Stella Perdomo’s 8-year-old German-bred stayer Musketier with Alex Solis picking up the mount.
A roan/gray by Acetenango, Musketier has made only two starts this year, both at Keeneland, winning the 12-furlong Elkhorn Stakes (G2) during the spring meet and a good third-place try during the fall meet on Oct. 21, beaten a length for it all, in the 12-furlong Sycamore Stakes (G3) as Presious Passion tired to ninth.
Completing the field for the W.L. McKnight are Butterfly Stable’s Memorial Maniac, Victor Lebron; Santa Cruz Ranch’s Black Scorpion, Javier Santiago; Haras Santa Maria de Araras’ Simmard, Rajiv Maragh; and Team Block and partners’ Free Fighter, C.H. Marquez, Jr..
First post Saturday at Calder is set for 12:25pm ET/9:25am PT.