West Point Thoroughbreds’s Twilight Eclipse is the reigning champion of the $125,000 Grade III W. L. McKnight Handicap and looks to defend his title this Saturday at Calder Casino & Race Course.
The W L. McKnight is scheduled for 1 ½ miles on the turf. Twilight Eclipse won the 2012 W. L. McKnight by 1 3/4 of a length over Signal Hill Farms’ Mucho Mas Macho by stalking the pace before catching the pacesetter at the eighth pole and clearing ahead. Both Mucho Mas Macho and Joseph Allen’s Vertiformer, who finished third in the W. L. McKnight, return to face Twilight Eclipse.
Since the W. L. McKnight, Twilight Eclipse has one stakes victory, which came in the 1 ½-mile Grade II Pan American Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park in March. He most recently finished sixth in the 1 ½-mile Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park in November. Mucho Mas Macho became a graded stakes winner in January, one start after the W. L. McKnight, with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Grade II Ft. Lauderdale Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream. Vertiformer has not run since the Ft. Lauderdale, when he finished seventh.
Team Block’s Suntracer has three second-place finishes in graded stakes races on his resume. He came second in the 1 3/16-mile Grade II American Derby on the turf at Arlington Park in 2011, second in the 1 1/8-mile Grade III Hawthorne Derby on the turf at Hawthorne Race Course in 2011, and second this July in the 1 ½-mile Grade III Stars and Stripes Stakes on the turf at Arlington Park.
Maestre Racing Stable’s Twin and Lisa's Racing, Inc.’s Ducduc met in the 1 1/16-mile Grade III Fred W. Hooper Handicap at Calder in their most recent start on December 7. Twin finished fifth, while Ducduc ran tenth. Ducduc’s last stakes win came in the 2012 Fred W. Hooper, where he dead-heated for the win in his first graded stakes victory. Twin’s best stakes result came in 2011, when he came second in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series at Calder. Prince Farm LLC’s Dannhauser finished eighth in the only graded stakes race appearance of his career, which came in 2012 at Calder in the 1 1/8-mile Grade III Tropical Turf Handicap.
Southfield Management, Inc.’s Ocean Seven’s best stakes finish came when he finished fifth in January at Sam Houston Race Park in the 1 1/8-mile Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes. He most recently came second in a 1 1/16-mile starter optional claiming race on the turf at Calder on December 8. Juddmonte Farms, Inc.’s Slumber’s best stateside graded stakes finishes were two fourth-place finishes: first in the 1 ¼-mile Grade I Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park in 2011 and three starts later in the 1 ½-mile Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park this September.
Nancy Mastronardi’s Franklinpark makes his stakes debut in the W. L. McKnight, while Alfonso Miranda’s Hariolus makes his stateside stakes debut. Blackacre Farms, Inc.’s Flatter This is entered as a main-track-only participant.
The W. L. McKnight has an approximate post time of 3:30 p.m. as the seventh race. Post time for the first race at Calder is 12:30 p.m.