05/17/2011 11:27AM

Calder: Manicero, Beso Grande sharp in early preps for Summit of Speed


MIAMI – The Summit of Speed is still nearly two months away, but trainers Leo Azpurua Jr. and Steve DiMauro were already thinking well ahead after sending out their top 3-year-old sprinters to victories last Saturday at Calder. Manicero, trained by Azpurua for his father, Leo Azpurua Sr., won the In Summation Stakes, while the DiMauro-trained Beso Grande took the French Village Stakes.

Manicero has now won six of his last seven starts, including five stakes, dating back to his maiden win last October, with the lone blemish on his record during that span a troubled outing in the Grade 2 Hutcheson last winter at Gulfstream Park.

“I’m very happy with the progress this horse has made,” said Azpurua. “He beat a good horse [Turbo Compresso] when he set the track record in his previous start at Tampa and he came out of this race well. With a little luck he could still be undefeated. He dropped the rider behind the gate and had a bad trip in his first start. And he got eliminated leaving the gate with three other horses in the Hutcheson. The 7 to 10 horses might as well not have even shown up that day there was so much crowding.”

Azpurua plans to take Manicero to Charles Town for the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes at seven furlongs on June 18 before bringing him back home for the Grade 2 Carry Back on the Summit of Speed card on July 9.

“Six to seven furlongs is his game,” said Azpurua. “I’m confident he’ll handle a mile as well, although I don’t want to stretch him out just yet.”
Beso Grande bounced back after being eased to the wire in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks six weeks earlier with her victory over a game White Merlot in the French Village. DiMauro put blinkers on Beso Grande for the first time on Saturday while also shortening her up to six furlongs for the first time since she was acquired privately by her owners, Half Hollow Racing, following her debut here last summer.

The equipment change came at the suggestion of jockey Jose Lezcano.

“The jock told me she had been intimidated racing along the rail, which was why he had to swing her outside when she won that allowance race at Gulfstream earlier this winter,” said DiMauro. “That was the reason for adding blinkers, although coming off a win that day I couldn’t put them on her for the Oaks. I don’t really know what happened to her that day. Jose said he had no horse at the three-eighths pole and just sat on her the rest of the way.”

DiMauro said he will use the $75,000 Leave Me Alone on the June 11 Summit Preview card as a final prep to get Beso Grande to the Grade 3 Azalea on Summit of Speed Day.

Apriority will rest until Smile

Another local trainer who is thinking about the Summit of Speed, David Fawkes, has pinpointed the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap for Apriority’s next start.

Apriority dropped a nose decision to Aikenite in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Four weeks earlier, Apriority was second behind Morning Line in the Grade 1 Carter.

“It was a disappointing result but he ran another great race at Churchill Downs,” said Fawkes. “I dropped him off at Double Diamond Farm in Ocala on the way back from Kentucky to let him eat a little green grass and roll around in the paddock for a couple of weeks. He’s had three hard races in a row and a couple of months off will do him good, but I think you’ll see him come back even better than ever in the Smile.”

Duke of Mischief may try Met Mile

Fawkes, whose stable is split between Florida and New York this summer, was not on hand to watch his Duke of Mischief work five furlongs in 1:02.46 at Calder on Monday. Duke of Mischief went easily throughout over the fast but somewhat cuppy track, completing his final quarter in 24.64 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.81.

Duke of Mischief is coming off an easy victory in the $1 million Charles Town Classic.

“Number-wise the last race might have been his best. It certainly was visually impressive,” said Fawkes. “I knew he would handle the bullring at Charles Town. I started my career at Sportsman’s Park. There’s no bullring in the world like that one, with those tight, banked turns, and after a while you get to know horses that will get around them, and being around Duke for so long I knew he would love it.”

Fawkes said he is considering the Met Mile for Duke of Mischief’s next start.

“I’ll look at the Met Mile and see how tough it comes up,” said Fawkes. “If not, I will just wait a couple of weeks and run him in the Cornhusker.”
The Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap will be run June 25 at Prairie Meadows.

Fawkes said he will run his top 3-year-old filly Hot Summer in Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

Fawkes reported that his Eclipse Award winner Big Drama is on owner-breeder Harold Queen’s farm in Ocala, Fla., and pointing for a late summer and fall campaign, culminating with an attempt to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Big Drama hasn’t raced since January, when he won the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream in a track record 1:08.12 for six furlongs.

◗ Chosen Empire established a course record for a mile on the turf when covering the distance in 1:33.07 in Sunday’s ninth race. The time shattered the old mark of 1:33.66 established last fall here by Dillonmyboy. Chosen Empire is trained by Nick Canani for owner Frank Calabrese.

◗ Luis Saez, who put up a crafty ride aboard Hot Summer to win the Comely in her last start, will enter Thursday’s program here atop the jockey standings with 18 victories, four more than apprentice Jose Alvarez and six better than Fernando Jara. Alvarez tightened the race after booting home four winners on Sunday.