12/26/2009 1:00AM

Sweet ending to short season for Cloudy's Knight


MIAMI - Truly amazing!

That's how trainer Jonathan Sheppard described Cloudy's Knight after the long-winded 9-year-old gelding capped off his brief 2009 campaign with a 1 1/4-length victory over Spice Route in Saturday's $150,000 at Calder.

Presious Passion, making his first start since finishing a game second in the Breeders' Cup Turf, failed in his attempt to win the Grade 2 McKnight for the third consecutive year. He finished a tiring fifth after being hard pressed early as the 3-5 favorite.

The McKnight was the fourth victory in five starts this year for Cloudy's Knight, who did not make his first start of the season until Sept. 19. Three of the four victories came in graded stakes at distances ranging from 1 1/2 miles to 1 3/4 miles. His only loss was a nose setback at the hands of Man of Iron in the Breeders' Cup Marathon.

The late-running Cloudy's Knight got a little unexpected help in the McKnight when apprentice jockey Luis Saez rode longshot Livingston Street as if the race was over the first time past the wire, driving on his mount early and forcing Presious Passion through fractions of 23.26 seconds and 46.78 for the opening quarter- and half-mile of the 12-furlong McKnight. Presious Passion ultimately opened a long advantage down the backstretch but offered little resistance when challenged by Spice Route three furlongs from the finish.

Spice Route edged well clear on the final turn but jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. had Cloudy's Knight on the move leaving the backstretch. Cloudy's Knight finally wore down the leader inside the sixteenth pole before edging clear approaching the wire. Winchester rallied from far back to finish third as Presious Passion gradually faded through the stretch.

Cloudy's Knight ($13) completed the distance in 2:27.63 over a firm course.

"He's a lovely horse," said Sheppard, who completed a pretty amazing year of his own on Saturday. "He got a little lucky with what the gray horse did," referring to Livingston Street. "But my horse is so smart. And he's got bottomless stamina. He was hardly blowing when he came back."

Sheppard said he plans to give Cloudy's Knight the winter off.

"He's a cold weather horse. He's spent all his life in Chicago, so it might throw him out of synch spending the winter in Miami. Besides, the turf course at Gulfstream is speed-favoring and just doesn't suit him."

Trainer Mary Hartmann took Presious Passion's disappointing performance in stride.

"I guess the Breeders' Cup might have taken something out of him and having the gray horse going with him early like that didn't help," said Hartmann. "It's only one race but he seemed to come back just fine."

When asked if Presious Passion would run this winter at Gulfstream, Hartmann wasted little time replying.

"Absolutely!," she exclaimed.

Sweet Repent by a nose

Sweet Repent became the only favorite to win one of the afternoon's three graded stakes when she wore down 20-1 pacesetter Amazing in the final jump to post a desperate nose decision in the $100,000

Aurora Light finished another 3 1/2 lengths back in third.

The victory was the fourth in a row for Sweet Repent, a 3-year-old daughter of Repent owned by the Buongiorno A Tutti Stable and trained by David Braddy.

Sweet Repent, whose cause was aided when his chief competition Jessica Is Back was scratched earlier in the day, paid $4.00 after running 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.91 over a fast track.