Already having had the best season of racing as a 9-year-old, Cloudy's Knight put an exclamation point on 2009 with a 1 1/4-length victory Dec. 26 in the 12-furlong W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Calder Casino and Race Course. S J Stables’ grand gelding has won four of five starts this year and has earned $426,759. His lone defeat was a gut-wrenching nose loss to Man of Iron in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Oak Tree.
Settled in mid-pack early while Presious Passion set the pace as expected, Cloudy’s Knight advanced to the front end on the far turn under Rosemary Homeister Jr. and rallied to catch the pacesetter and Spice Route in deep stretch. Presious Passion set early fractions of :23.26, :46.78, 1:10.68, and 2:03.01 and had as much as a six-length lead early, but was pressed in the opening half-mile by Livingston Street and jockey Luis Saez.
“I keep learning about this horse every time I ride him and the most important thing I’ve learned is to just let him run his race the way he wants to,” said Homeister, who has been aboard Cloudy’s Knight in all of his starts this year. “I wasn’t so concerned about the favorite opening up on the field the way he does, I was more concerned about the pace behind the leader. It’s important not to fight this horse, he’s too professional at running these long distance races, you just have to sit and let him do his thing.”
Spice Route finished second in the $150,000 race, a half-length in front of second-choice Winchester. Winchester was followed by Silver Mountain, the 4-5 Presious Passion, Memorial Maniac, New Fandan, Mr. Universo, Livingston Street, and Warning Zone. Imawildandcrazyguy was scratched.
Cloudy’s Knight covered the 1 1/2 miles over firm turf in 2:27.63 and paid $13.00, $5.20, and $3.00. Spice Route returned $4.80, and $3.20, and Winchester paid $3.20 to show. The 9-4 exacta returned $72.40.
“He’s a wonderful horse and maybe a little lucky today with what the gray horse (Livingston Street) did,” said winning trainer Jonathan Sheppard. “He’s (Cloudy’s Knight) taken us from race to race. That will be it for him for awhile as we’ve already decided to skip Gulfstream. You can’t dance all the dances, although he wasn’t even blowing when he came back today. We hope to bring him back by the spring or summer.”
A winner of 14 of 41 starts and more than $2.5 million in seven years on the track, the son of Lord Avie- Cloudy Spot, by Solar City started his 2009 late with a win Sept. 19 in the Kentucky Cup Turf (gr. IIIT). He followed that with a head score in Keeneland’s Sycamore Stakes (gr. IIIT). Both efforts were at the McKnight distance of 1 1/2 miles. He lost a heart-breaker to Man of Iron in the 1 3/4-mile Marathon over the Pro-Ride surface at Oak Tree, then captured the Valedictory Stakes Dec. 6 at Woodbine at 14 furlongs.
The long-distance specialist was champion grass horse in Canada in 2007 off wins in the Pattison Canadian International Stakes (Can-IT) and Sky Classic Stakes (Can-IIT).
Cloudy’s Knight carried 122 pounds in the McKnight, one less than the high-weighted Presious Passion.
“It certainly didn’t help that the gray horse (Mr. Livingston) was up there with him,” said Mary Hartmann, trainer of Patrica Generazio’s Presious Passion. “He’ll live to play another day – at Gulfstream.”