Forte Dei Marmi, Ioya Bigtime square off in McKnight
by BRIS
Date Posted: 11/21/2012 6:47:16 PM
Last Updated: 11/24/2012 6:58:03 PM

The final Saturday of the Tropical meet at Calder features two graded stakes, the Grade 2, $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap and the Grade 3, $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap.

Forte Dei Marmi, who showed solid form against international fields at Woodbine this fall, is one of the main players in the McKnight, contested over 1 1/2 miles on the turf. The Roger Attfield-trained gelding made a last-to-first rally behind a slow pace to take the Grade 2 Sky Classic over 1 1/4 miles August 19, and fared well when third in both of the Toronto course's signature grass events -- the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf and Grade 1 Canadian International.

The Illinois-bred Ioya Bigtime has run first or second in each of his past four starts, winning the the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes and Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup and taking runner-up honors in the American St Leger and Grade 3 Sycamore. The Chris Block trainee breaks from post 1 and should be tough to catch on the front end.

Seeking a second McKnight victory is Prince Will I Am, who took the 2010 edition that was transferred to a sloppy main track. The five-year-old returned from a near 15-month spell on September 1, trailing a field of six in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap. He didn't fare much better in the October 14 Canadian International, beating only one of nine rivals to the finish.

Also of note in the McKnight are Grade 1 Man o' War runner-up Center Divider and Manchurian High, who narrowly missed pulling a massive 97-1 upset in the October 27 Laurel Turf Cup.

Ducduc, hero of the September 8 Our Dear Peggy and second in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap, was cross-entered in the McKnight and the Hooper, a nine-furlong test on the main track that attracted five others. Should he run in the Hooper, Ducduc will have to get past Csaba, a 14-length winner of the Tropical Park Derby last time, and Carl G. Rose Classic runner-up He's Spectacular.

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