Updated on 09/16/2011 8:56AM

Man From Wicklow shines

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Jean Raftery
Man From Wicklow rallies past Serial Bride enroute to a one-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2 $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder.

MIAMI - Man From Wicklow ended a frustrating season-long drought with a hard-earned, one-length victory over Serial Bride in Saturday's . The Grade 2 McKnight highlighted Calder's Grand Slam II program that also included the Grade 2 La Prevoyante Handicap, the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap, and the Stage Door Betty Handicap.

Man From Wicklow had held his own versus the best of his division for most of the season, but came into the McKnight winless in five starts this year and without a victory since August of 2001. After racing near the back of the 12-horse field for the first mile of the 1 1/2-mile McKnight, Man From Wicklow rallied strongly through the stretch to run down the 15-1 Serial Bride in the final strides.

Serial Bride prompted the slow early pace set by Riddlesdown, overtook that rival in early stretch and forged clear, but couldn't withstand the winner's final surge. Rochester, the 2-1 favorite, also raced near the rear of the field into the stretch then rallied belatedly to finish third.

Man From Wicklow, the 118-pound highweight, paid $7.60. He also completed a Grand Slam II Pick-4 that paid $17,668 for a $1 ticket.

"He's had a very unlucky year," said trainer Rick Violette, who also owns Man From Wicklow. "He should have galloped in Canada and he almost got dropped before coming flying at the end of the Sword Dancer."

Violette was referring to Man From Wicklow's third-place finishes in Woodbine's Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap and Grade 1 Man o' War. He was also fourth, beaten two lengths, after clipping heels and nearly going down in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Handicap.

The victory gave Jerry Bailey his 65th stakes win in 2002, just three shy of the single-season North American record set by Mike Smith in 1994.

"He gave me a lot of confidence the whole way along," Bailey said. "It was just a matter of when he was going to get loose to make his run."