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Manicero, Devilish Lady keep rolling at Tampa

Manicero will stretch out next in the Sam F. Davis (John Duca/Tom Cooley Photography)
In a virtual reprise of their victories in a pair of December 26 stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Leo Azpurua Sr.'s MANICERO (Mass Media) captured Saturday's $68,750 Pasco S. and Cairoli Racing Stable's DEVILISH LADY (Sweetsouthernsaint) romped in the $73,250 Gasparilla S. two races earlier. Both three-year-olds extended their winning streaks to four, and punched their respective tickets into graded company.

Despite his comfortable one-length decision in the Inaugural S. last time out, and his 8 1/4-length rout in the November 13 Jack Price Juvenile S. at Calder, Manicero was dispatched as the 5-2 second choice in the Pasco. Favoritism instead was accorded to Aqueduct maiden winner Read the Contract (Read the Footnotes), who went off at 9-5.

Longshot Brock N Rock (Gibson County) sprinted to the fore, but Manicero was in hot pursuit to his inside through an opening quarter in :23. Read the Contract was tracking the leaders in third, until Inaugural runner-up Bert B Don (Harlan's Holiday) overtook him on the far turn. By that point, Manicero had put his head in front at the half-mile mark in :46 1/5.

Bert B Don took a run at Manicero at the head of the lane, but he could not do enough to reverse the Inaugural result. Under encouragement from Luis Saez, Manicero pulled away by two lengths in midstretch. Although a resolute Bert B Don tried again late, reducing the gap to a half-length at the wire, Manicero was still in command in a final time of 1:24 2/5 for seven furlongs on Tampa's fast track. The winner rewarded his backers with $7.60, $3.80 and $3.

"We were in tight at the break last time (in the Inaugural)," Saez said, "but today he broke in the clear and I was able to get the lead and get him to relax. I didn't have to use the speed he has. Getting into the stretch I took the lead and was able to get off the inside, but I had to ride him hard to hold off the late runner. He's a good horse -- very game."

"I was just happy that we were off of the rail, but I think the track's been fair all day," said Leo Azpurua Jr., who trains the colt for his father. "I've seen horses win on the outside and on the inside, but it changes. I was also very thankful that he had a clean break from the gate, because last time we had a lot of trouble. The horse has a lot of heart. He (Saez) told me that he took Manicero off of the rail a little bit where it was a little firmer, and he just went on with it."

Azpurua Jr. was full of praise for Saez, saying that he plans to keep the reinsman aboard Manicero.

"He knows the horse very well," the trainer added. "He has worked very hard with this horse, and he's done everything I've asked him to. He followed today's game plan to a T."

Depeche Cat (Wildcat Heir), well back early, showed late interest to get up for third, 1 1/4 lengths adrift of Bert B Don. Read the Contract wound up fourth, followed by Imperial Czar (Imperialism), Ribo Bobo (Louis Quatorze), Porcini Prince (Defrere) and Brock N Rock. Mas Trueno (Afleet Alex) and Ready for More (More Than Ready) were scratched.

Manicero, whose skein commenced with a 7 3/4-length maiden win at Calder on October 30, has now earned $189,008. The dark bay colt is four-for-five overall, having been disqualified from third to fourth for interference in his career debut.

Plans call for Manicero to take the next step on Tampa's three-year-old series, the February 12 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at 1 1/16 miles, which would mark his two-turn debut.

Bred by Roberto Sanson in Florida, Manicero is a half-brother to stakes winners Puerto Plata (Alwuhush) and Delirio (Jolie's Halo), the latter the dam of stakes victress Poovey (Graeme Hall). Manicero also has a juvenile full sister named Golden Bucket. They were produced by the unraced Kris S. mare Ritzy Blitz, who is herself a half-sister to Grade 3 scorers Thunder Blitz (Holy Bull) and A B Noodle (Alphabet Soup) as well as Indian classic queen Rain Splasher (Placerville). Further back, this is the family of French Horse of the Year and sire Sassafras (Fr) (Sheshoon).

Devilish Lady has racked up a grand winning margin of 27 1/2 lengths in her past four (John Duca/Tom Cooley Photography)
Devilish Lady's tour de force in the Gasparilla left even less room for suspense. The 2-5 favorite rated in a close fifth through the initial quarter, just off the :23 split clocked by Royale Harbor (Rockport Harbor) in a contested pace. Miss Fifty (Johannesburg) briefly grabbed the lead when reaching the half in :46 1/5, but Devilish Lady was already bearing down on the outside.

Striding to the front in short order for Daniel Centeno, Devilish Lady widened her margin to 6 3/4 lengths while touring seven furlongs in 1:25 1/5. The Antonio Sano pupil returned $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10.

"I know she won like a really good filly," Centeno said, "but I was concerned starting wide when the inside seemed to be best all day. Then she broke out and I had to decide whether to go after the leaders or wait. We got to the turn and I knew I had to ask her then, even if it meant being five wide. But she was so good she just blew by them anyway and we just cruised home….She is really something special!"

My Pal Chrisy (Alex's Pal) outran her 27-1 odds to finish a clear second by 5 1/4 lengths, with Fashionable Elsa (Agnes Gold [Jpn]) likewise closing for third. Rounding out the strung-out field were Holy Royal (Holy Bull), Ravionetta (Touch Gold), Royale Harbor, Itcouldbesunshine (Maria's Mon) and Miss Fifty.

Devilish Lady has now dominated in each of her past four. Starting with a 7 3/4-length decision in the November 13 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies S., she next outclassed starter allowance opponents by five lengths on December 4, and crushed her rivals by eight lengths in the December 26 Sandpiper in her first start away from her Calder base. Claimed from Manny Tortora for $16,000 out of a winning effort on September 30, Devilish Lady finished a useful third in her debut for her new connections in the October 16 Cassidy S., and the dark bay now sports a mark of 10-6-0-2, $216,220.

Sano mentioned that Devilish Lady would aim for the seven-furlong Forward Gal S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park on January 30 before heading back to Tampa Bay Downs for the Suncoast S. over one mile and 40 yards on March 12.

Bred by the Lewis Family Stables Partnership in Florida, Devilish Lady is out of the multiple stakes-winning Devilish Brunette (Diablo), whose other foals include the multiple stakes-placed Captain Lindsay (Mecke) and a yearling colt by Alke. Devilish Lady has an intriguing pedigree pattern: she is inbred 2 x 3 to the full brothers Saint Ballado and Devil's Bag.


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