Updated on 09/18/2011 12:20AM

Ebony Breeze's neck in front

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TOM COOLEY
Ebony Breeze wins the 22nd running of the $60,000 Mmanatee Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.

Ebony Breeze took the overland route to challenge for the lead in the turn of the seven-furlong Manatee Stakes then dug in gamely through the final sixteenth to come out the neck winner of a three-horse photo Saturday before 4,015 fans at Tampa Bay Downs.

Under a strong ride by Terry Houghton, Ebony Breeze ($4) justified her role as the favorite in the field of 12 filly and mare sprinters to post her fifth win from six starts over the Tampa strip as she outgamed both Toll Taker and Beautiful Bets through deep stretch.

Toll Taker, who was making her first start since November, stuck a head in front leaving the furlong marker under Rajiv Maragh. She hung on the wire but was able to outfinish Beautiful Bets, who had gotten through along the rail in midstretch to loom a threat.

Ebony Breeze covered the distance over a "wet fast" and somewhat dull racing strip in 1:25.03 to earn the $27,000 winner's share and run her career earnings to $876,772. The vicory was the 11th of her career.