Darby Dan Farm Racing’s Manitoulin capped a banner “Black Friday” for the historic nursery. You might even call it a couple of “doorbusting” breakthroughs. Not long after the Clark H. (G1) victory by Seeking the Soul, a son of Darby Dan stallion Perfect Soul, the Phillips homebred Manitoulin likewise earned his first stakes success in the $200,690 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar.
Trained by Jimmy Toner, the Belmont Park shipper employed a change of tactics for his new rider, Hall of Famer Mike Smith. As Smith pointed out afterward, he’d guided both of Manitoulin’s parents, Awesome Again and 1999 champion turf mare Soaring Softly – herself a Galbreath/Phillips homebred from the Toner barn. Now he’s won graded stakes on all three.
The Hollywood Turf Cup pace scenario was altered by the scratches of the forward-running types Prime Attraction (in favor of Saturday’s Native Diver [G3]) and Infobedad. Smith adapted by altering Manitoulin’s typical closing style, and the switch to pace-forcing tactics turned out to be decisive.
Manitoulin prompted Tequila Joe through slow fractions of :25.30 and :51.36, then ranged up to match strides at the six-furlong mark in 1:17.08. The pair alternated for the lead through splits of 1:43.00 and 2:07.38, when Manitoulin put his early rival away inside the final furlong. Smith lost the whip, but it didn’t matter as the stoutly-bred runner was full of energy in the dash for home.
Although the 7-5 favorite, Chicago Style, unleashed a ferocious late kick, he couldn’t entirely erase the deficit. The nearer he drew, the more Manitoulin stuck his neck out, and kept it there. The 4-1 winner clocked 2:30.16 for 1 1/2 miles, including a withering final quarter in :22 and change (pending the Trakus chart for precision).
Flamboyant, the 124-pound highweight, ran fairly evenly in third. Tequila Joe retreated to fourth, followed by the filly Lottie; Prince of Arabia, who broke in the air; and Inordinate, a further nine lengths adrift. Inordinate was vanned off with a left front leg injury, according to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman.
Lack of pace had compromised Manitoulin in two of his three previous stakes attempts, an eighth in last fall’s Dueling Grounds Derby and a seventh in the October 19 Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland. In both cases, he was too far back off an early crawl. Manitoulin got a better set-up in the July 8 Arlington H. (G3), positioned in fourth without as much ground to make up, only to meet trouble in running and find himself squeezed out late. The chestnut gelding finally had a stakes trip to his liking, and his resume now stands at 17-5-3-1, $394,506.
The Kentucky-bred is the third stakes performer for Soaring Softly, who’s also produced stakes winner Much Rejoicing and stakes-placed Shine Softly. The Kris S. mare factors as the second dam of multiple stakes-winning turf sprinter Spring to the Sky and multiple Group 3-placed Ennobled Friend. Soaring Softly in turn is a three-quarter sister to Grade 1 star and influential matron Plenty of Grace (by Roberto), ancestress of sprint millionaire Diabolical, Australian Group 1 victor Super Cool, and ill-fated Recepta.
Quotes from Del Mar
Winning rider Mike Smith: “I’ve got some history here. I rode his mother (Soaring Softly) and I rode the sire (Awesome Again), too. It was just like J.J. (trainer James J. Toner, whom Smith spoke to by phone about an hour before the race) 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 half-mile instead of a mile and a half. It worked out just right.”
Jimmy Toner’s assistant, Tiffany Webb, on Manitoulin: “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. 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.”
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke on runner-up Chicago Style: “I saved all the ground I could. Saved it all. He came running; just not enough.”
Brice Blanc, who rode Flamboyant in third: “I think maybe a mile and a half is just a bit too far for him. He struggles that last eighth. Sometimes if it sets up just right, he can do it, but it didn’t work that way today. Not a lot of pace. But no excuses for me. We got outrun late.”