11/24/2011 12:27PM

Calder: Mambo Meister outclasses field in Fred W. Hooper

Tom Keyser
Mambo Meister is the only graded stakes winner in the Hooper field.

MIAMI – Trainer Phil Gleaves entered Mambo Meister in both the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap and the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight just to keep his options open. But in the end, the decision where to run his multiple Grade 3 stakes winner Saturday afternoon at Calder was really a no-brainer.

Mambo Meister will accept his 121-pound highweight assignment and go postward as the odds-on favorite to add the $100,000 Hooper to his already impressive r é sum é . He is listed at 4-5 on the morning line for the Hooper, which is at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt, and is the 6-1 fourth choice for the McKnight, run at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

“We’re going in the Hooper, it looks like a really good spot for him,” Gleaves said on Thursday. “At some point we definitely want to stretch him out on the grass, but we felt this wasn’t the right time to do it.”

The Hooper couldn’t have come up a softer spot for a graded stakes. Mambo Meister has won three graded stakes and is the only graded stakes winner in the field. He has also competed in four Grade 1 races, including the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and more recently the Woodward this summer at Saratoga. The only stakes winner among his seven rivals on Saturday is Flatter This.

Mambo Meister will concede from five to seven pounds and breaks from the outside in post 8 under regular rider Fernando Jara.

“The post doesn’t bother me much,” said Gleaves. “He is a horse who runs well on the outside and it’s a small field, only eight horses. And the weight concerned me more last time when he ran in the Spend a Buck because he had to give five pounds to Mad Flatter, a horse who’d beaten us by six lengths the year before.”

Mambo Meister finished second, beaten a length by Mad Flatter, in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck on Oct. 15.

The Hooper will also bring back the third-, fourth- and sixth-place finishers from the Spend a Buck, Stimulus Plan, Sky Venture, and Flatter This.

The wild card in the Hooper may be Jimanator, a much-improved gelding who was claimed by trainer Mike Trombetta for $20,000 this summer at Saratoga. Jimanator won a second-level allowance race by six lengths at Parx in his last start, posting a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure, but he is unproven at nine furlongs.

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