12/15/2009 12:00AM

Presious Passion aims for three-peat

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Bill Denver/Equiphotos
Presious Passion will attempt to win the W.L. McKnight for the third straight year.

MIAMI - Nominations are out for the three graded stakes on the docket here at Calder on Dec. 26, and from the looks of things, local fans are in for some real post-Christmas joy.

The Grade 2 W.L. McKnight highlights the card and will feature the appearance of two-time defending champion Presious Passion, who will make his first start since his courageous second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Trainer Mary Hartmann has already declared her intention to bring Presious Passion back to try for the three-peat in the 1 1/2-mile McKnight.

Presious Passion was one of 23 long-distance runners nominated for the McKnight and one of two Breeders' Cup runners-up on the list. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard also nominated Cloudy's Knight, who was equally gallant finishing a close second in the Marathon. Cloudy's Knight bounced back to win Woodbine's Valedictory Stakes on Dec. 6 for his third win in four starts this season.

The supporting features on the McKnight card are the $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. and $100,000 Stage Door Betty handicaps, both Grade 3 events.

This Ones for Phil, who still owns the highest Beyer Speed Figure posted by any horse this year in races up to one mile with a 115, tops a list of 18 speedsters nominated to the seven-furlong Kenny Noe. This Ones for Phil began his career at Calder before being purchased privately and turned over to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. prior to his 3-year-old debut.

Other prominent names eligible for the Kenny Noe include Biker Boy, Harlem Rocker, and Le Grand Cru, along with locally based stablemates Motovato and You and I Forever.

The Stage Door Betty could provide the setting for a rematch between Sweet Repent and Jessica Is Back, who finished one-two in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap on Nov. 14. They were joined on the nomination list by northern invaders Amazing, Flying Dixie, Kiddari, Morena, and Nicksappealinglady. Morena, trained by Michael Matz, is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26.

"I thought the nominations for all three stakes were excellent, both quantity and quality wise," racing secretary Mike Anifantis said.

Hypocrite continues to look sharp training up to the Kenny Noe. The four-time stakes winner worked five furlongs from the half-mile pole around to the seven-eighths pole in 1:00.21 with Kate Francy aboard on Tuesday, posting fractions of 23.51 seconds, 35.24, and 47.24 along the way for trainer Manny Tortora.

Sincero romps in return

Sincero, who knocked heads with the likes of Quality Road, Dunkirk, and Take the Points earlier this year at Gulfstream Park, returned from an eight-month vacation to register a game and decisive 4 1/2-length win in a first-level optional claiming race here Monday.

Sincero, who finished fifth of seven following early trouble in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, withstood a prolonged pace duel with Supremacy before drawing off impressively through the stretch under jockey Luis Arango.

The victory was the first for Sincero, a Florida-bred son of Repent, since he won his maiden by 6 1/2 lengths in his 2-year-old finale here nearly 13 months ago. Sincero is trained by Manny Azpurua for the Korina Stable.

Tougher assignment for White Shoes

White Shoes will attempt to win his second straight on the comeback trail when he takes on Unbridled Heat and seven others in Thursday's $25,000 optional claiming feature at seven furlongs.

White Shoes returned from a 5 1/2-month layoff to register an impressive 3 1/4-length entry- level allowance triumph despite a slow start going six furlongs on Nov. 13. The outing was just the second this year and third since December 2007 for White Shoes, who is trained by Rodolfo Garcia.

White Shoes will have to improve quite a bit from a Beyer standpoint if he's to beat Unbridled Heat, who posted Beyers of 94 and 95 in his last two starts. Unbridled Heat was claimed for $25,000 by trainer David Braddy for Rancho Alegre out of his previous start on Nov. 21.

* Duke of Mischief, one of two top 3-year-olds in trainer David Fawkes's barn, breezed an easy three furlongs in 38.00 here early Monday. It was just his second work since finishing seventh as the 2-1 favorite in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park two months ago. Fawkes said Duke of Mischief, winner of the Iowa Derby, could make his 4-year-old debut in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita on Jan. 30.