11/20/2010 2:44PM

Azpurua mulls whether to keep or sell Manicero

Jim Lisa
If Manicero is not sold, he could make his next start in the Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 26.

MIAMI – As is generally the case in south Florida at this time of year, several of the top local 2-year-old prospects have been snapped up, privately purchased by outside interests and moved off the grounds. Awesome Feather, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award favorite, and the promising High Level Jeff are the most notable examples from the 2010 Calder juvenile crop to have changed both ownership and barns over the past several weeks.

With Awesome Feather and High Level Jeff gone, Manicero has inherited the role as the leading 2-year-old on the grounds. A son of Mass Media out of a Kris S. mare, Manicero has won his last two starts by a combined 15  1/2 lengths, including the Jack Price Juvenile by 8 1/4 lengths in his stakes debut here last weekend.

Just how long he sticks around here remains to be seen, however.

Manicero is owned by Leo Azpurua Sr. and trained by his son Leo Jr. The elder Azpurua purchased Manicero privately from his breeder, Roberto Samon, earlier this year.

“All the credit for this horse goes to my father,” Azpurua Jr. said on Saturday. “He bought the colt privately from the breeder for himself, broke him and has seen this as a very special horse right from the start.”

Manicero finished third following a slow beginning and was disqualified to fourth after being carelessly ridden through the stretch in his debut. He returned with blinkers for his next start, cruised to an easy maiden win, then vaulted to the top of the division with another lopsided victory in the seven-furlong Jack Price.

“I’ve never really trained him hard. He won the stakes very easily and with very little training and I believe eventually he’ll be able to carry his speed a mile and beyond,” said Azpurua. “I see him getting the endurance from the dam’s side of the family. The blinkers really got him to focus a lot better, pay more attention to what he was doing, and that has been a big help.”

As noted earlier, any Calder based 2-year-old who displays even a modicum of ability during the summer and early fall usually draws plenty of attention from trainers and bloodstock agents around the country. So naturally, Manicero’s performance in the Jack Price opened the flood gates with substantial offers pouring in for the colt from almost the moment he crossed the finish line.

“Since the stakes, without exaggeration, we’ve had multiple offers to buy him and they have been very solid,” said Azpurua. “Offers from not only trainers in this country but England and Canada as well. My father is handling those negotiations. I can’t say he’s not for sale but at the moment we haven’t come to any terms yet.”

If Manicero is not sold, his next start is likely to come either in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 26 or two weeks later at Gulfstream Park in the Spectacular Bid. Both the Inaugural and Spectacular Bid are carded at six furlongs.

Cash Rules attempts two turns

Cash Rules will try to stretch out around two turns for the first time as the likely favorite in Monday’s $29,000 feature. The race will be decided under second-level optional $25,000 claiming conditions at a mile and 70 yards.

Cash Rules is coming off a career-best effort when rallying from mid-pack in early stretch to a neck decision going seven furlongs on Oct. 17, earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.

While Cash Rules is yet untested at the distance, most of his competition is already proven around two turns. The speedy Tripofalifetime may be the best of a group that also includes key contenders March Twelfth, Lunar Fleet, and Sky Venture.