While lightly raced this year, four-time grade I winner Winchester has by far the most decorated career heading into the Nov. 26 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) at Calder Casino & Race Course. The son of Theatrical is now looking to redeem an unplaced finish in the Oct. 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) and add yet another graded score to his résumé.
Winchester, who will carry top weight of 122 pounds, will face several other accomplished older horses in the W.L. McKnight, including other multiple graded stakes victors Musketier and Mambo Meister. The 1 1/2-mile contest for 3-year-olds and up on the turf is the 10th race on the card and has an approximate post time of 4:23 p.m. EST.
Homebred Winchester, trained by Christophe Clement for Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, has made just three starts this year, two of which have been on-the-board efforts. He finished second in the July 23 Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. III) in his first attempt on a synthetic surface at Arlington Park, followed by a victory in the Aug. 13 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) at Saratoga, and then a distant fifth in the Turf Classic at Belmont Park after being bumped at the start.
In all, the 6-year-old horse holds a record of 6-6-3 from 24 starts, including additional victories in the 2010 Turf Classic and Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) and the 2008 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT). Bred in Virginia, he is out of the Spectrum mare Rum Charger. Winchester will be ridden for the first time by jockey Joe Bravo in the W.L. McKnight and the pair will break from post five.
Musketier, who will carry 121 pounds in the race, is looking to end a three-race losing streak. The 9-year-old German-bred son of Acatenango—Myth and Reality, by Linamix, most recently finished sixth in the Oct. 16 Canadian International (Can-IT), but earlier this year, he captured both the Singspiel (Can-IIIT) and the Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT).
Owned by Stella Perdomo, Musketier raced in France from ages 2-5. The Roger Attfield trainee enters the W.L. McKnight with a seasoned record of 9-6-5 from 43 starts, for earnings of $894,523. In his most recent work, Musketier covered five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 at Woodbine Nov. 7 and was clocked the second fastest of 33 horses at that distance.
Luis Saez has the first-time riding assignment on Musketier, who drew post six.
Mambo Meister, who will carry 118 pounds, also brings an impressive record into the W.L. McKnight, with all of his biggest scores coming at Calder. The 6-year-old gelding by King Cugat has won two stakes at the Florida track this year and most recently finished a close second in the Oct. 15 Spend a Buck Handicap (gr. III), a race he won in 2009.
Trained by Philip Gleaves for Quantum Racing Team #1, Mambo Meister has displayed versatility in his 39-start career, scoring major victories on both dirt and turf, including last year's Miami Mile (gr. IIIT) and Memorial Day Handicap (gr. III). He sports an overall record of 11-8-6 from 39 starts and earnings of $684,125.
In the W.L. McKnight, Mambo Meister will be ridden by Fernando Jara and will break from post 2.
Also in the mix is Flatter This, another two-time stakes winner at Calder this year; and 2011 graded/group stakes-placed runners Simmard, Argentine shipper Astral Thunder, and Center Divider. Rounding out the field is stakes winner Livingston Street; stakes-placed runner Trust the Deputy; and winners Scottish Coast and Gondorf.
$150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 10, 4:23 p.m), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Center Divider (KY), P Lopez, 115, H G Motion
2. Mambo Meister (KY), F Jara, 118, H G Motion
3. Livingston Street (FL), J C Levva, 115, W A Kaplan
4. Scottish Coast (FL), M Lopez, 111, B Campos
5. Winchester (VA), J Bravo, 122, C Clement
6. Musketier (GER), L Saez, 121, R L Attfield
7. Gondorf (ON), S O Madrid, 114, B A Lynch
8. Trust the Deputy (FL), L Jurado, 114, H Collazo
9. Simmard (KY), P Morales, 116, R L Attfield
10. Astral Thunder (ARG), F Jara, 115, J J Toner
11. Flatter This (KY), L Saez, 114, K O’Connell