DEL MAR, CA – Darby Dan Farm’s Manitoulin made his first stakes victory a big one, emerging first from the stretch duel in Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes at Del Mar.
Off strongly from post 6 under Mike Smith, Manitoulin dueled Tequila Joe on the front end through fractions of :25.30, :51.36, 1:17.08, and 1:43.00. Set down for the stretch drive, Manitoulin poked his head in front and began inching away from the field when Smith lost the whip at the 1/16 pole. Manitoulin dug in as the favored Chicago Style drew close, with the James Toner trainee holding off his foe by a neck at the wire in a final time of 2:30.16 for the 1 1/2-mile turf event.
“I was a little surprised Mike had him up so far, but Mike told me in the paddock that there wasn’t a lot of speed and he wanted to put him in the race, which was brilliant,” said Tiffany Webb, Toner’s assistant. “I was a little afraid at the top of the lane when Mike wasn’t asking him and I saw Chicago Style getting geared up. But I told Mike in the paddock that I know this horse and he’s always going to stick his nose out in front. I know he’s a fighter, and I knew that if somebody came to him, he’d fight on.”
Flamboyant never threatened the leaders but was a clear third ahead of a fading Tequila Joe. Lottie, Prince of Arabia, and Inordinate completed the order of finish. Infobedad and Prime Attraction were scratched.
Unplaced in three previous stakes attempts, the win was the New York-based Manitoulin’s first start at Del Mar. The 4-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again improved his record to 17-5-3-1, including 7-4-1-0 in 2017, with career earnings of $394,506. For Smith, the win felt familiar.
“I’ve got some history here,” Smith said. “I rode his mother (Soaring Softly) and I rode the sire, too. It was just like (Toner) told me. He said ‘He can get a little lazy on you.’ He said if I dropped my hands, he’d back right out of there. He said warm him up good; get his blood pumping. Make him think he’s running a 1/2-mile instead of 1 1/2. It worked out just right.”
Manitoulin returned $10.40 to win, $4.80 to place, and $3.40 to show. Chicago Style brought back $3.40 to place and $2.40 to show, while Flamboyant paid $2.60 to show.