Just as he did when taking the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) in wire-to-wire fashion this summer at Monmouth Park, Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion sprinted to an early lead and never looked back, as the 5-year-old gelding took them all 12 furlongs to win the W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) for the second consecutive year Dec. 13 on the Calder Race Course grass.
After breaking sharply from post nine, Presious Passion was allowed to run unchallenged on the front end through fractions of :23.91, :48.04, 1:12.65, and 1:37.47 under Elvis Trujillo. Picou stalked the pace and nearly came on even terms at the quarter-pole.
But Picou finally began to tire as they entered the lane and Logic Way was the only one left to give serious chase in the final furlong. His bid was not nearly enough to catch the son of Royal Anthem, who won by two lengths in a time of 2:25.64 and became a millionaire in the process. Logic Way was three parts of a length better than third-place Always First.
“This is a very nice horse to ride,” said Trujillo, who won the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap (gr. III) aboard Yesbyjimminy earlier in the afternoon. “If you know what he likes and responds to, he will give you everything he has.
“I learned when I rode him to win this race last year that if I give him a loose rein early on in the race and then start shortening my hold of him when I want him to pick it up, he will get confident and start running harder and harder. We set an honest pace up front, but he does that deceivingly easy.”
Presious Passion entered the McKnight off resounding defeats in consecutive graded stakes. He lost by more than 25 lengths in the Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) Sept. 27 at Belmont and was 15 lengths off of the pace last out in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 8 at Aqueduct.
But a return to sunny Florida was just the solution, as the Mary Hartmann trainee made his first start at Calder since taking the McKnight by 1 1/4 lengths in 2007. He earned that victory by stalking the pace and drawing clear in the stretch.
“Those last two races I could strictly attribute to the ground,” said Hartmann, referring to the wet turf. “In one, it was so bad he was splashing through it and he sank in to his ankles in another. I never thought about stopping with him. I knew it was simply the ground conditions.
“In this race last year, Kiss the Kid had all the speed and we were able to sit behind him. I told Elvis today that he might end up finding himself on the lead, and if so, not to worry about it.
“I don’t know what’s next. He is a Florida-bred and could run in the Sunshine Millions (Turf at Santa Anita Jan. 24). He’s always been a good shipper and can run a middle distance as well as longer ones. We’ll see after I talk to the owners.”
Presious Passion, bred by Joseph Barbazon and Helen Barbazon, is out of the Marquetry mare Princesa’s Passion. He is now 9-4-2 from 34 starts and has earned $1,052,018.
The winner paid $17.20, $8.80, and $6.20. The exacta (9-11) returned $213.80, while the trifecta (9-11-12) was worth $1,008.
Hard Top finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of 9-5 favorite Summer Patriot for fourth.