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Breeders' Cup 2017

Violon Sacre Favored in Knickerbocker

A wide-ranging field of ten turf specialists, including a pair of Grade 1 winners who have made 103 starts between them, a French import looking for his first American graded stakes victory, and last year’s defending champion, will gather at Belmont Park Sunday afternoon for the 51st running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Knickerbocker Stakes.


A winner of three Grade 1 races in his lengthy career, Presious Passion will be making his 48th lifetime start in the 1 1/8 mile Knickerbocker, his first appearance at Belmont Park since a sixth-place finish in the 2008 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational over a yielding course.


Now 7, the chestnut gelding has one victory from four starts this year, having taken the Grade 3 MacDiarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his 2010 debut. Subsequently last in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March and seventh in the Grade 3 Monmouth in June, the son of Royal Anthem came off a freshening to finish fourth, beaten 2 ¼ lengths, as the favorite in an optional claimer at Delaware Park on September 22.


“We had given him a couple of weeks off on the farm in Colts Neck in New Jersey, and when he came back he seemed more like his old self,” said trainer Mary Hartmann of Presious Passion, a winner of more than $2.6 million. “The race in Delaware seemed to put his mind back in the game, and he’s been training forwardly since then.”


Elvis Trujillo will ride Presious Passion, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line, from post position 3 as the co-highweight with Baletti under 124 pounds.


Interpatation, who will be making his 57th start in the Knickerbocker, scored the lone Grade 1 victory of his career a little more than a year ago when he upset Gio Ponti to win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Winless in six subsequent starts, the 8-year-old gelded son of Langfuhr will gain the services of Belmont Park’s leading rider, Ramon Dominguez.


Interpatation, who has made six of his last seven starts in Grade 1 races, drew post position 6 and was listed at 12-1 on the morning line.


Violon Sacre, a stakes winner in France, was transferred this year to trainer Patrick Biancone, for whom he has won two of his four starts, including the PTHA President’s Cup at Parx Racing last month.


Second by a neck to Get Serious in the Grade 3 Oceanport in August, the 5-year-old son of Stravinsky beat Banrock and Whatsthescript in the Battlefield at Monmouth Park in July, his second start in the United States, and was a close-up fourth in his stateside debut.


“He’s a very nice horse and he seems to have acclimated to the United States very well,” said Biancone, who trains Violon Sacre for Bernard Weill. “He’s run well, and his last win was a very good effort. His four starts here have been over firm courses but having run in Europe, he’s used to some cut in the ground as well.”

Favored at 5-2 on the morning line, Sacre Violon drew post position 9 and will be ridden by Pablo Fragoso.


Another veteran, the 8-year-old Operation Red Dawn, will attempt to defend his title in the Knickerbocker as he comes back from a three-month respite from the races. Trained by Christophe Clement, the son of Miswaki was most recently fourth in an optional claimer at Belmont Park in July, and returned to the worktab in September.


“He’s training well, and we are very hopeful,” said Clement, a four-time winner of the Knickerbocker including back-to-back editions in 1999 and 2000 with Charge d’Affairs and in 1993 with River Majesty.


Rajiv Maragh will ride Operation Red Dawn, 12-1 on the morning line, from the outside.


Whatsthescript and Wesley, who were separated by a neck in the Keep the Promise Stakes at Belmont Park, tangle again in the Knickerbocker as both seek their first graded stakes wins of 2010.


Whatsthescript, a Grade 2 winner in California who stood the first part of the year at stud, scored his first victory since being returned to racing when he stubbornly held off the late rally from Wesley in the 1 1/16-mile Keep the Promise on September 19.


“To me, the fact he came back from stallion duty and won a stakes was incredible,” said Gary Contessa, who had earlier saddled the 6-year-old son of Royal Anthem to finish fourth in the Fourstardave and sixth in the Bernard Baruch, both Grade 2 races at Saratoga. “If he’s able to come back again and win a graded stakes, that would be icing on the cake.”


John Velazquez is named to ride the 5-1 choice from post position 4.


Wesley, winner of the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes in 2008 and the Grade 3 Miami Mile Handicap in 2009, won an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in his 5-year-old debut in but failed in five subsequent starts to reach the winner’s circle.


“He’s at his best when he comes from way out of it, and in some of his races he’s been a victim of pace,” said trainer Mark Hennig of Wesley, a son of El Prado. “Hopefully, we’ll get a little pace in there and he’ll come running at the end.”


Javier Castellano rides Wesley, 6-1 on the morning line, from post position 5.


Also returning from the Keep the Promise Stakes is third-place finisher Leading On, and rounding out the field for the Knickerbocker are War Hoot, third to Sacre Violon at Parx; Baletti, who rallied to finish fourth in an optional claimer behind Nicanor at Belmont Park on September 24, and Midnight Mischief, winner of an optional claimer on the same card.

Barrier Reef, Discreet Treasure and Marilyn’s Guy were entered Main Track Only.


The field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Knickerbocker:











War Hoot (KY)




J Lezcano


C C Brown



Leading On (KY)




M J Luzzi


J A Dodgen



Presious Passion (FL)




E Trujillo


M Hartmann



Whatsthescript (IRE)




J R Velazquez


G C Contessa



Wesley (KY)




J Castellano


M A Hennig



Interpatation (KY)




R A Dominguez


R Barbara



Baletti (KY)




D Cohen


A J Penna, Jr.



Midnight Mischief (KY)




C H Velasquez


W I Mott



Violon Sacre (KY)




P Fragoso


P L Biancone



Operation Red Dawn (KY)




R Maragh


C Clement


Also Eligibles:


Barrier Reef (KY) (MTO)





T Albertrani



Discreet Treasure (KY) (MTO)




J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Marilyn's Guy (KY) (MTO)





K P McLaughlin







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