Augustin Stable's Rochester and Lyn and Michael Shanley's Whitmore's Conn, major players in the turf marathon division this year, will be among the choices in the 31st running of the $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. II). The McKnight is one of four stakes worth a total $600,000 to be run at Florida's Calder Racecourse on Saturday.Jockey Pat Day gets the call on Rochester for trainer Jonathan Sheppard and Eibar Coa rides Whitmore's Conn in the 1 ½ miles turf course test that attracted a wide-open field of 12 with three others also-eligible.Rochester is a 6-year-old homebred gelding by Green Dancer and a very accomplished winner of over $400,000 this season while racing in the imposing shadow of his illustrious stablemate, With Anticipation.
Rochester's three stakes victories this year include the Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap (gr. III) at Kentucky Downs and the Sycamore Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in the fall. He shipped to California for his last start and finished a respectable fourth in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. I) on Nov. 23.The highlight of Whitmore's Conn's season was a 15-to-1 upset victory in the Bowling Green Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park in mid-July. Trained by Randy Schulhofer, the 4-year-old Kris S. colt then finished unplaced in both the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. I) at Saratoga and Turf Classic (gr. I) at Belmont, but was beaten only 3 ½ lengths in both.Completing the body of the field are Whata Brainstorm, Serial Bride, Riddlesdown, Dawn Of The Condor, Man From Wicklow, Mr. Pleasentfar, Williams News, Macaw, Lasting Tribute, and Gritty Sandie. Also-eligible are Just Listen, Good Boy Sam and Quiet Ruler.