Presious Passion Seeks McKnight Repeat
Grade I winner Presious Passionhas not been in the best of form lately, but the 5-year-old gelding will try to get back to his winning ways in an event he scored in last year, the $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT). The 1 1/2-mile turf event is one of four graded stakes on Calder Race Course’s $500,000 Grand Slam program Dec. 13 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Among the rivals Presious Passion will face are a pair of European-breds, Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) winner Strait of Mewsinaand multiple graded stakes winner Always First; as well as IEAH Stables’ Gran Estreno, an Argentine-bred who set a new course record in optional claiming company last out at Meadowlands.
The McKnight Handicap is the last of four graded stakes and will go to post as race 10 on the Grand Slam program. Post time is scheduled for 4:27. p.m. EDT.
Owned by Patricia Generazio and trained by Mary Hartmann, Presious Passion has been well-beaten in four starts since taking the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park July 5. The son of Royal Anthem won the McKnight by 1 1/4 lengths in 2007 at odds of 67-1. Elvis Trujillo, aboard for the upset, will get the call once again.
Richard Ravin’s Strait of Mewsina earned his first graded stakes when taking the Hawthorne Derby by a neck Oct. 11. The Irish-bred Spartacus colt rallied from well off the pace in the 1 1/8-mile contest to get up at odds of 19-1 under E.T. Baird. It was also his first victory in eight tries this season. Baird gets the return call on the Larry Rivelli trainee.
Merriefield Farm’s Always First will make his Florida debut for Tom Voss, and enters off a fourth-place finish in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 11 at Aqueduct. Prior to that, the English-bred 7-year-old gelding won the 12-furlong Sycamore Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland Oct. 18. Rene Douglas, aboard for the Sycamore score, gets the mount.
Gran Estreno notched his first North American victory Oct. 14 when he won in optional claiming company at Meadowlands. The 5-year-old Lucky Roberto horse covered 1 3/8 miles on the grass in 2:20.53 to set a new mark. The Rick Dutrow trainee was third in his only other American start this year. In 2006, Gran Estreno won the Jockey Club Stakes (Arg-I) for the biggest win of his career. Jose Lezcano will ride him for the first time.
Familiar Foes Do Battle Again
The top four finishers in last month’s restricted Carl G. Rose Handicap at Calder will meet again in the $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III). The nine-furlong dirt event for 3-year-olds and up will go to post just before the McKnight Handicap.
Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing’s Finallymadeit went wire-to-wire in the 1 1/8-mile Carl Rose Nov. 8 at Calder, romping to a 6 1/4-length victory to score his fourth win in 14 tries this season–all of them coming in Florida. Among those the 4-year-old Concerto colt defeated are current entrants, Dream Maestro, Actin Good, and It’s a Bird, who finished second, third, and fourth, respectively.
Finallymadeit, who is trained by Javier Negrete and will be ridden by Eduardo Nunez, finished second in last year’s seven-furlong Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap (gr. III), which is also part of the Grand Slam program.
Prior to finishing off the board in the Carl Rose, Edmund Gunn’s It’s a Bird earned his first graded stakes win by defeating Gottcha Gold by a head in the 1 1/6-mile Spend a Buck Handicap (gr. III) Oct. 18 at Calder. Trained by Marty Wolfson, It’s a Bird, who is cross-entered in the McKnight and Kenny Noe, has won three times at Calder this season, all of them at a mile or more, and has six career scores at the Florida racetrack. Regular rider Jermaine Bridgmohan will be in the irons.
Centaur Farms’ Gottcha Gold could go off as the favorite despite narrowly dropping the Spend a Buck. The Eddie Plesa Jr. trainee won the Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) by 3 1/2 lengths earlier this season at Gulfstream and has been runner-up in three graded stakes in 2008, including the Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. I) which he lost to Student Council by a neck. C.C. Lopez rides for Plesa, the leading trainee at the current Calder meet.
Gottcha Gold will likley try the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Jan. 24 in his career finale before going off to stud.
Also entered for the Fred Hooper are former classic contenders Hey Byrn and Imawildandcrazyguy. Bea Oxenberg’s 3-year-old Hey Byrn won the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) this season before finishing seventh in the Preakness (gr. I). Also trained by Plesa, Hey Byrn has run off the board in his last two starts.
In 2007, Imawildandcrazyguy was fourth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and sixth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Since those efforts, the Wild Event gelding has won twice in 16 starts, including the Sumter Stakes May 4 at Calder, where he defeated Finallymadeit by a half-length.
$100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III), Race 9, 3:58. p.m.) 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
$150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 10, 4:27 p.m), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
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