Prince Will I Am, the talented 3-year-old who was disqualified from second to 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) last out which led to an ugly post-race incident between jockeys, makes his return in the $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 18 at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Prince Will I Am is the lone 3-year-old in a field of 10 turf horses that will go 1 1/2 miles, but still could go off as the favorite. The winner of the Oct. 9 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) will face a pair of other grade I winners—Presious Passion and Telling—as well as two capable competitors trained by Roger Attfield. Presious Passion won this race back in 2007 and 2008.
The 11th race on Calder’s 12-race program, the McKnight has a 4:45 p.m. EST post time.
Prince Will I Am ran well in the Nov. 5 BC Marathon at Churchill Downs, losing by less than two lengths to Eldaafer. But he was later disqualified after replays showed that he bore out near the five-sixteenths under the direction of Javier Castellano, which nearly caused a three-horse spill that included A. U. Miner with Calvin Borel aboard. After the race Borel attacked Castellano near the winner’s circle in a highly publicized incident. Castellano was later suspended six days. He has served that suspension and will be back aboard Prince Will I Am in the McKnight.
Owned by Casa Farms I and trained by Michelle Nihei, Prince Will I Am began finding his best stride late this year after he was switched to turf. He won an optional claimer at Saratoga on Sept. 3 in his second start on grass and made a huge late move to score in the Jamaica in eye-catching fashion as a 9-1 outsider.
A chestnut ridgling by Victory Gallop out of the Dynaformer mare Dyna’s Dynamo, Prince Will I Am won just one of his first eight career starts while running mainly on dirt. He has earned $203,090.
Patricia Generazio’s 7-year-old Presious Passion skipped the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) this year after finishing a game runner-up in 2009. The gelded son of Royal Anthem has been off form for nearly all of his 2010 campaign with the exception of his season debut, the Feb. 28 Mac Diarmida (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream when winning by 1 1/4 lengths. After that he was sent to Dubai where he ran last in the Sheema Classic (UAE-I) and has been off the board in three subsequent starts, including the Oct. 2 Sycamore (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland.
Despite the recent efforts, trainer Mary Hartmann is hopeful that Presious Passion will be ready to get back to his winning ways on Saturday. Regular rider Elvis Trujillo will have the mount.
“He seems like he’s back to his regular self. He’s been aggressive in his training (at Gulfstream) and spirited, so it seems like things are setting up nicely,” said Hartmann.
An earner of more than $2.6 million from 14 wins and 48 starts, Presious Passion has won twice in four tries over the Calder turf course. He was fifth in last year’s McKnight.
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Telling has scored both of his grade I victories in the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes at Saratoga including a 1 1/2-length triumph in August. Since that win, the 6-year-old son of A.P. Indy has run fifth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and BC Turf (both gr. IT). This will be the first start in Florida for the Steve Hobby trainee. Eibar Coa will be in the irons.
Attfield’s two chances are 8-year-old Musketier, a three-time group/graded stakes winner and a solid third in the Sycamore last out, and stakes winner Simmard.
Also in with good chances are Black Scorpion, an optional claiming winner at Calder on Oct. 23, and Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner Free Fighter, shipping in for trainer Chris Block, who sent out Askbut I Won'ttell to capture the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder on Dec. 4.
$150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 11, 4:45 p.m.), Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Telling (KY), E Coa, 122, S Hobby
2. Presious Passion (FL), E Trujillo, 121, M Hartmann
3. Memorial Maniac (KY), V Lebron, 116, L W Demeritte
4. Prince Will I Am (KY), J Castellano, 117, M Nihei
5. Bold Hawk (KY), P Lopez, 116, J J Toner
6. Rescue Squad (KY), J L Castanon, 116, C R McGaughey III
7. Black Scorpion (FL), J Santiago, 113, J P Rizo
8. Simmard (KY), R Maragh, 115, R L Attfield
9. Musketier (GER), A O Solis, 120, R L Attfield
10. Free Fighter (IL), C H Marquez Jr., 116, C M Block