McKnight Arrives For First Season At Oaklawn After ‘Magical’ Woodbine Season

Among the high-profile training newcomers for the 2018 Oaklawn meet scheduled to begin Jan. 12 is newly minted Woodbine kingpin Norman McKnight, whose Canadian contingent arrived Saturday.

McKnight is riding the wave of his first Woodbine training title, when he won five races on the Dec. 10 closing-day card to finish with 99 victories, three more than perennial champion Mark Casse.

“That was kind of a magical day, that was,” McKnight said Tuesday morning in his office in the new Afleet Alex barn.

McKnight said his 24-horse Oaklawn string is heavy on claimers, ranging from the “bottom level” ($6,250 is new minimum at Oaklawn) to $60,000.

“We have a couple of nice horses,” said McKnight, who plans to be active at the claim box. “We might have or two stakes horses.”

The trainer’s most accomplished runner is Scotty’s Model, who had won three consecutive races before finishing second, beaten a head, in the $175,000 Bessarabian Stakes (G2) Nov. 26 at Woodbine in her last start. McKnight said Scotty’s Model is pointing for the $125,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares Jan. 13 at Oaklawn.

Another horse to watch, McKnight said, is Inge, a 2-year-old Victor’s Cry gelding claimed out of a Dec. 2 sprint at Woodbine for $40,000. Inge ran third in the $125,000 Bull Page Stakes Oct. 9 at Woodbine.

Both Scotty’s Model and Inge are owned by McKnight’s main client, Bruno Schickedanz.

McKnight said he normally gives his horses a break during the winter, but decided to test the waters at Oaklawn for the first time because of his recent business trajectory. He set Woodbine career highs for starts (305), victories (99), purse earnings ($2,109,047) and winning percentage (a gaudy 32.5) this year. Most previous bests at the Canadian track came in 2016.

“A lot of the clients were looking to not lay up all the horses like we typically do at home,” McKnight said. “Rather than to lose the business, I thought I would resource somewhere to go. We looked at two or three different racetracks and this one seemed to be the best fit for our horses as far as purse money versus competition with the type of horses that we have.”

McKnight, a former Standardbred trainer and driver, has 507 North American victories since starting his first horse in 1995, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

The post McKnight Arrives For First Season At Oaklawn After ‘Magical’ Woodbine Season appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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