06/07/2011 11:56AM

Calder: Azpurua considers Unbridled as back-up plan for Manicero

Jim Lisa
Trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. would prefer to run Manicero in the $400,000 Red Legend at Charles Town on June 18, but if it appears he won't get into the field, the horse will run in Saturday's Unbridled at Calder.

MIAMI – Manicero is arguably the most significant of the 30 horses entered in the four stakes races to be decided on Saturday’s Summit of Speed Preview program at Calder. He also may be the most surprising of those entries.

Trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. has been pointing Manicero for Charles Town’s $400,000 Red Legend on June 18. But with more than 80 3-year-olds nominated to the seven-furlong Red Legend and graded stakes money the first of the conditions used to determine starting status if the race overfills as expected, Azpurua is taking no chances and thus has entered Manicero in Saturday’s $75,000 Unbridled, where he will likely vie for favoritism with Indiano if he starts.

“Of all the horses nominated for the Red Legend, Manicero is seventh in total earnings,” explained Azpurua. “But we have no graded stakes earnings so at the moment I can’t be certain whether we’ll get into the race or not. I’ve been in constant contact with the racing secretary at Charles Town and he’s got a pretty good line on who is coming and who is not. I’ll talk to him Friday and then make a final decision whether we’ll stay here or scratch and go to Charles Town.”

Azpurua needs to get a race into Manicero either this weekend or next, whether it be the Unbridled or the Red Legend, to keep on schedule for his next major goal, which is the Grade 2 Carry Back here on July 9.

“With a horse like this you need a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C,” said Azpurua. “The Red Legend, at the moment, is Plan A, the Unbridled Plan B, and we also have him nominated for about a half-dozen other stakes up north. The Red Legend is a lot of money, you don’t get too many opportunities to run a 3-year-old sprinter for that kind of money, so that’s our first option at the moment. But I truly believe my horse is capable of becoming a graded stakes winner and that’s what we’ll be looking to accomplish with him during the second half of the year.”

Manicero is coming off a hard-fought victory over Dual Exhauzt in the In Summation Stakes here on May 14. He also won the Sophomore and Pasco stakes earlier this year at Tampa. His lone setback in his last seven starts came following a troubled beginning in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Hutcheson last winter, his only start thus far against graded stakes competition.

“If we scratch Saturday I’ll work him here this weekend and then ship him to Charles Town,” said Azpurua. “Right now he couldn’t be doing better. He’s actually coming into this next race better than his last.”

Paco Lopez is scheduled to return to Calder on Saturday to keep his regular seat aboard Manicero if he runs in the Unbridled. Azpurua said Lopez would also have the mount in the Red Legend.

Manicero and Indiano top a field of seven entered for the six-furlong Unbridled that also includes Close It Out, Dual Exhauzt, Uno Caliente, Drivebymedia, and Megalith.

The $75,000 Leave Me Alone Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, a prep for the Grade 3 Azalea on July 9, also drew a field of seven, topped by Bessie M, Beso Grande and White Merlot.

The Festival Preview card will be anchored by the $75,000 U Can Do It Handicap for fillies and mares, the final local prep for the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap on July 9, and the $75,000 Ponche Handicap, a stepping-stone to the Grade 2 Smile Sprint on the July 9 Summit of Speed card.

Musical Romance and Bella Moneta, who finished a neck apart as the one-two finishers in the Ema Bovary on May 22, are among the leading contenders in the six-furlong U Can Do It along with Golden Mystery.

Giant Ryan will carry high weight of 122 pounds when he returns from New York with a three-race winning streak for the six-furlong Ponche.

Slight edge to Performing in turf feature

A field of only seven, including the main track only entrant Even Road, was entered for Thursday’s feature, a second-level optional $25,000 claiming race for fillies and mares scheduled for a mile on turf.

Performing, third in the Sara’s Success overnight stakes on May 21, may be the slight favorite in a field that also consists of Ventania, Score Boyera, Cumana, Dreamed to Dream, and Academicienne.

Race for leading trainer wide open

With current leader Nick Canani having moved on to Monmouth Park for the remainder of the summer, the race for leading trainer figures to be a good one. Henry Collazo is presently one behind Canani with 11 victories, two more than Antonio Sano and four better than Marty Wolfson, Bisnath Parboo, Joe Calascibetta, and Jorge Navarro.

A four-bagger on Saturday has lifted Fernando Jara into sole possession of third place in the jockey standings when action resumes on Thursday. He trails only defending riding champion Luis Saez and apprentice Jose Alvarez. Juan Leyva and Luis Jurado complete the top five.