12/19/2009 12:00AM

With restrictions over, strong finish expected


MIAMI - After weathering plenty of bumps in the road to begin December, it should be smooth sailing the rest of the way for racing secretary Mike Anifantis and his crew. Plenty of good racing is in the offing for the final two weeks of the Tropical at Calder session, which ends Jan. 2.

A confirmed case of the equine herpesvirus Nov. 30 resulted in a quarantine that crippled entries during the busiest time of the season at Calder. The restrictions not only prevented 60 locally based runners - including the entire barn of perennial leading trainer Bill White - from racing over the last three weeks but also kept horses stabled at Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows out of the entries for the same period. Those restrictions were to be lifted at 12:01 a.m. Monday, barring any further illnesses.

White entered two horses for Monday's card, joining seven others coming over from Gulfstream and Palm Meadows, including trainer Nick Zito's first starter of the meet and a pair from Todd Pletcher.

White, who was atop the trainer standings at the time of the quarantine, remains within striking distance of the leaders. It might not take him long to get back into the thick of the race with his two starters Monday - Power Rules in the opener and Smooth Valentine in the fourth race. Both are expected to go off as solid favorites.

Two BC runners top McKnight

The stakes program also fell victim to the quarantine, with the Grade 3 My Charmer and Tropical Park Turf handicaps first postponed and then canceled by track management last week. Fortunately, the best is yet to come, with Saturday's card offering three graded stakes, topped by the Grade 2 W. L. McKnight Handicap.

Presious Passion and Cloudy's Knight sat atop Anifantis' weight assignments, as expected, for the McKnight, which is run at 1 1/2 miles. Presious Passion, a game runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Turf, will carry high weight of 123 pounds in search of his third straight McKnight title. Cloudy's Knight, second in the BC Marathon, is right behind at 122 pounds. Anifantis said he expects both topweights to run.

The Grade 3 Kenny Noe at seven furlongs has This Ones for Phil and Harlem Rocker leading the way at 120 pounds, followed by Le Grand Cru (118), Motovato (117), You and I Forever (117), and Biker Boy (116).

Jessica Is Back figures to go as the highweight under 118 pounds in the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty, conceding a pound to archrival Sweet Repent (117), Aurora Lights (117), and Even Road (117).

* Sweet Repent tuned up for the Stage Door Betty by working five furlongs in 1:01.60 here Saturday morning. She was joined on the tab by Mambo Meister, who worked an easy half-mile in 50.60. Mambo Meister has not started since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

* Lunar Fleet will seek his third straight victory Monday in the $24,400 main event, a seven-furlong allowance. Lunar Fleet is the probable favorite in a field that includes Post Time, Green Vegas, Caixa Eletronica, and Kentucky invader Spectacular Kid.