by Frank Carulli
August 28, 2018
Score Round 1 for Manchego.
In a heavyweight matchup of two champion 3-year-old filly trotters, Hambletonian Oaks winner Manchego out-kicked Hambletonian victor Atlanta in an epic battle in the C$136,000 Casual Breeze Stakes at Woodbine-Mohawk Park last Friday.
Manchego and driver Yannick Gingras took the initiative despite starting form post 8 at the 7/8-mile oval. He cleared to the lead before a :27.3 opening quarter, relegating longshot Smoke and Mirrors (Trevor Henry) to the pocket while Atlanta (Scott Zeron) settled in third.
Atlanta launched her bid into the final turn and drew within 1-1/4 lengths of the lead at the 3/4-mile mark in 1:24.1. The co-favorites at 4-to-5 odds separated from the field in an all-out sprint to the wire, with Manchego holding safe for a 1-3/4-length score in a stakes record 1:51.4
"Everybody was talking about Atlanta and rightfully so, she’s a great filly too, but I never lost confidence in mine and all along I thought I had the best filly," said Gingras. "It’s just one matchup; they’ll meet up again many times, but my filly was super strong tonight."
Manchego, a daughter of Muscle Hill, improved to 18-21 with $1.4 million in earnings for Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter and owners Black Horse Racing, John Fielding and Herb Liverman.
A pair of multi-millionaire trotters will be in the spotlight this weekend when 2016 Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder and world champion Ariana G meet in the C$651,000 Maple Leaf Trot final after winning in their respective elimination heats.
TRIPLE CROWN CONTINUES AT YONKERS
Stay Hungry sprung a mild upset in the Cane Pace at the Meadowlands last month and he will try to do the same when the $500,000 Messenger Pace, the second jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown, takes center stage at Yonkers Raceway this Saturday.
Stay Hungry (Doug McNair) finished third in his elimination but he was no match for favorite Jimmy Freight (Louis Roy), who crushed the field of 3-year-old colts in a track record 1:50.3 but drew post 8 for the finals. Springsteen, second between the top pair, drew the rail for the Messenger final and he is driven by Hall of Famer Brian Sears, who last Sunday guided Chasin Dreams to his 10,000th career victory.
There won't be a Trotting Triple Crown winner as Atlanta (see above) bypassed the $500,000 Yonkers Trot. But there remains a strong field of eight for the 64th running, headlined by Stanley Dancer Memorial and Empire Breeders Classic winner Six Pack (Ake Svanstedt), who drew post 4.
The Yonkers Trot will go as the sixth race on the 12-race card that begins at 6:50 p.m. EST.