08/23/2003 11:00PM

Ballonenostrikes rallies to take Choice Stakes


OCEANPORT, N.J. - One day after pulling off the upset with Valid Video in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, the unstoppable team of Dennis Manning and Joe Bravo struck again Sunday afternoon with Ballonenostrikes in the $50,000 Choice Stakes Sunday afternoon at Monmouth Park.

"We're on a roll," Manning said. "Bravo can ride and my horses can run. I'm just along for the ride."

In what has become a mutual admiration society, Bravo returned the compliment.

"He's the man," said the meet's leading rider. "He brings them to the races and I just have to hang on."

Bravo sat patiently on Ballonenostrikes in the early stages of the 1 1/8 miles turf stakes for 3-year-olds. He didn't have much choice as the headstrong Dream Deliverer bounded to the front and opened up a sixth length lead.

Bravo, as he did in the King's Bishop, bided his time until the stretch before making the decisive move.

Ballonenostrikes rallied strongly to get up by 2 1/4 lengths. Dream Deliverer held on for second with Prince Benjamin third.

Manning was quietly confident going into the race.

"I knew something nobody else did," Manning said. "He had a real bad pus pocket in a foot and he ran on it the last couple of times. After the last time, it popped out."

Ballonenostrikes stopped the clock in 1:47.87 on the firm course and paid $11.80 to win.