Report From Florida

Manicero, Devilish Lady flaunt class at Tampa

Leo Azpurua Sr.'s MANICERO (Mass Media) and Cairoli Racing Stable's DEVILISH LADY (Sweetsouthernsaint) captured their respective juvenile stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Sunday, reinforcing their status as hot prospects for the track's upcoming series for three-year-olds. Both had starred on Calder's Florida Million Day program back in November, and they now brandish three-race winning streaks.

Manicero was hammered into 4-5 favoritism in the $70,000 Inaugural S. off a pair of crushing victories at Calder. Trained by his owner's son, Leo Azpurua Jr., the dark bay colt broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths on October 30, and followed up by dismissing stakes rivals by 8 1/4 lengths in the November 13 Jack Price Juvenile S. While those triumphs came in front-running fashion, he showed a new dimension by roaring from just off the pace on Sunday.

Longshots Roar as the Wynnd (Roar of the Tiger), Halo Doctor Joe (Halo's Image) and My Valentino (Pomeroy) flashed early speed, with Halo Doctor Joe getting the upper hand through the initial quarter in :22 3/5. Manicero, ridden by regular partner Luis Saez, chased in a close fourth. Seizing an opening along the rail, Manicero cruised up to engage the leaders at the half-mile mark in :46 1/5, easily took command, and surged 2 1/2 lengths clear in midstretch.

Meanwhile, 7-2 second choice Bert B Don (Harlan's Holiday), who had been stuck in traffic in midpack, finally broke free on the outside and made rapid headway. Manicero had already flown, though, and he kept doing enough to maintain a one-length margin at the wire. Manicero negotiated six furlongs on the fast track in 1:11 2/5 and returned $3.60, $2.60 and $2.60.

'I told Luis that I wanted him to be able to rate the horse, because I think that makes him a better horse,' trainer Azpurua said. 'He was able to save ground and run strongly down the stretch, and I was very happy about that because I plan to stretch him out.'

'This colt has shown real speed in some of his races but he has learned how to relax too,' Saez said. 'We broke with other horses so I had to settle him early; but getting to the turn, I saw there was going to be an opening down along the rail so I asked him to go there. I had to use him to keep him there, but when we got to the stretch I thought we were safe. He is a very nice colt, and yes, I do think he can stretch out and win going farther.'

Bert B Don reported home 3 1/2 lengths ahead of third-placer Uno Caliente (Macho Uno), who was in turn two lengths on top of Megalith (Trippi). Watch Me Go (West Acre), Imperial Czar (Imperialism), My Valentino, Roar as the Wynnd, Halo Doctor Joe, Pick Four (Pure Prize) and Affluence (Zavata) completed the order of finish.

Manicero, who was disqualified from third to fourth for interference in his career debut, hasn't done anything wrong since. With this third straight win to his credit, he has bankrolled $144,008.

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 recent Sleigh Ride S. victress Poovey (Graeme Hall). Manicero also has a yearling 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).

Azpurua credits his father with seeing the potential in Manicero.

'He bought the horse privately from the breeder, and he told me that this was a very special horse,' the trainer said. 'He gets all the credit -- he was right. I'm very happy to be training for him, and training this horse.'

Azpurua added that Manicero will aim for the January 15 Pasco S. over seven furlongs at Tampa.
Devilish Lady has won her past three by a combined margin of 20 3/4 lengths (John Duca/Tom Cooley Photography)
Two races earlier, Devilish Lady left no doubt regarding her superiority in the $70,500 Sandpiper S., blowing past the pacesetting 3-5 favorite It's Me Mom (Put It Back) at the head of the lane and proceeding to romp by eight lengths.

The Antonio Sano trainee was prominent in the chasing pack through an opening quarter in :22 3/5, but advanced into a clear second by the time It's Me Mom reeled off a half-mile in :46 1/5. As soon as the pair straightened up leaving the turn, it was clear that Devilish Lady had all of the momentum. Leaving It's Me Mom behind in a few strides, Devilish Lady widened her advantage with authority while finishing six furlongs in 1:11 2/5 beneath Daniel Centeno.

'I was pretty sure we knew where the speed was, so when we got in tight coming out of the gate, it really didn't change how we wanted to race,' said Centeno, who won a total of four races on the card. 'She is very professional for a young horse, so she relaxed behind the leaders, and then when I asked her she moved up very nicely through the turn and then we only had one to pass. She finished up really nicely and was just cruising at the end. Off this race you have to think she can stretch out.'

'I'm very emotional -- very happy,' said Sano, a successful Venezuelan trainer who just came to the United States early this year.

The 5-2 second choice, Devilish Lady furnished mutuels of $7, $2.80 and $2.20. It's Me Mom salvaged second by a diminishing three-quarters of a length from Juanita (Mineshaft). Holy Royal (Holy Bull) checked in another 4 1/2 lengths back in fourth, followed by Going for More (Slew City Slew), Ayoumilove (Gibson County) and My Sunshine Gal (West Acre). Pomeroys Pistol (Pomeroy), Her Smile (Include), No More Yogi's (Salt Lake) and Royale Harbor (Rockport Harbor) were all withdrawn.

Like Manicero, Devilish Lady was extending her winning skein to three, having rolled to a 7 3/4-length decision in the November 13 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies S. and outclassed starter allowance opponents by five lengths on December 4. The Sandpiper marked 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 9-5-0-2, $171,220.

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 soon-to-be 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.

Sano mentioned that Devilish Lady could either return to Tampa for the seven-furlong Gasparilla S. on January 15, or head to Gulfstream Park instead.



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