07/23/2008 11:00PM

El Manuel owns classy credentials


DEL MAR, Calif. - After El Manuel finished second in the restricted King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 13, trainer Mike Puype wondered what must happen for the gelding to win.

"He couldn't run any better and he lost," Puype said. "He shows up every time."

Puype and the Little Red Feather partnership that owns El Manuel will be banking on that consistency in Thursday's seventh race at Del Mar. El Manuel is part of a strong field of 12 in an optional $100,000 claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track.

The race, which has a purse of $72,000, may not have that many starters. Silver Stetson Man, who drew the rail, is likely to be withdrawn in favor of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap on Sunday, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

El Manuel has kept good company in recent starts. He was fourth in two graded stakes earlier this year, losing the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita by 2 1/4 lengths on April 19 and the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park by 3 3/4 lengths on May 10. The six-furlong Los Angeles Handicap was won by Street Boss, who returned to win the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap in early July.

"His race against Street Boss was good and a little shorter than he'd want to run," Puype said.

El Manuel, 6, is a closer and may have a pace to follow from Peace Chant and Northern Soldier. Trainer Richard Mandella said the 5-year-old Peace Chant has benefited from a brief break since finishing seventh in the Los Angeles.

"He's trained well in the last month," Mandella said. "It took a while to get him back around."

Northern Soldier is taking a drop in class after finishing eighth in the Robert Kerlan Handicap on turf at Hollywood Park on July 6. He is one of several horses in the field attempting to end lengthy losing streaks.

Arson Squad won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes in February 2007, but is on a five-race losing streak since that race.

Whilly, a multiple stakes winner, is winless in his last 11 starts, since the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood in July 2005.

Spot the Diplomat will attract support. He won a $40,000 claimer at Hollywood Park on July 4 by 4 1/2 lengths.