01/28/2017 6:32PM

Taghleeb sweeps to victory in W.L. McKnight

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Emily Shields
Taghleeb paid $12.20 in winning the W.L. McKnight at Gulfstream.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Taghleeb swept past the leading pack leaving the eighth pole and withstood a last-gasp surge from Sadler’s Joy to post a narrow victory in the 50th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 W.L. McKnight, the lead-in race to the Pegasus World Cup on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Saving ground through all three turns under Tyler Gaffalione, Taghleeb relaxed well off the early pace in the 1 1/2-mile McKnight before angling out with his winning run.

Sadler’s Joy came up just a head short, while Patterson Cross stayed on to be third, another length back in a field of 12 older horses. The winner paid $12.20 after finishing in 2:25.90 over a firm turf.

“He’s doing what he wants to do,” said Mike Maker, who trains Taghleeb for owner Michael Hui. “Maybe he’ll be this year’s Da Big Hoss,” referring to the one-time claimer he guided to win nearly $1 million in 2016 by racing primarily in turf marathons.

Taghleeb, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred by Hard Spun, won the 2-mile Allen Jerkens Stakes at Gulfstream in similar late-running fashion in his previous start. He was claimed by Hui for $62,500 last July at Saratoga.

The $2 exacta (1-11) paid $139.80, the $1 trifecta (1-11-9) returned $1,583.20, and the 10-cent superfecta (1-11-9-7) was worth $1,171.94.