12/26/2009 12:00AM

Weather an issue for Presious Passion

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Barbara D. Livingston
Presious Passion tries to win the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight for the third straight year. Rain and a soft course could put a crimp in his plans.

MIAMI - The field that will assemble for Saturday's $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder is one of the strongest in the 39-year history of the event. But despite the caliber of the competition, there may be just one thing that can prevent Presious Passion from winning his third straight McKnight - the weather.

If Presious Passion has one chink in his imposing arsenal it's soft turf, and the Calder grass course took five inches of rain last weekend with a forecast for more Saturday.

Trainer Mary Hartman is approaching this edition of the Grade 2 McKnight with guarded optimisim. She said Presious Passion came out of his gritty second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf in good shape.

"He's been very much on his game ever since," Hartman said. "My only thought for Saturday is that I hope it doesn't rain. If the course comes up too soft, we probably won't run."

Presious Passion will try to cap an incredible campaign with another victory in the 1 1/2-mile McKnight. The 6-year-old son of Royal Anthem had already won two Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 in 2009 before gaining worldwide respect by giving Conduit all he could handle in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita Nov. 7.

Presious Passion will carry high weight of 123 pounds while conceding from one to 11 pounds to his 10 rivals. Regular rider Elvis Trujillo will be aboard Saturday.

Presious Passion's opposition will be formidable and includes Cloudy's Knight, Winchester, Warning Zone, and Spice Route.

Cloudy's Knight also ran his heart out before finishing second in the Breeders' Cup when beaten a nose by Man of Iron following a stirring stretch battle in the Marathon. The 9-year-old bounced back to capture Woodbine's Valedictory Stakes at the Marathon distance of 1 3/4 miles one month later.

Winchester has not started since rallying from far back and falling a head short of catching Cloudy's Knight in Keeneland's Sycamore on Oct. 22. A stretch-running 4-year-old, Winchester finished second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green late this summer. He was a runaway winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat in his U.S. debut at 3.

Warning Zone has not started since capturing Hollywood Park's Grade 2 Sunset Handicap for trainer John Sadler in July 2008. He is currently under the tutelage of Marty Wolfson.