11/22/2008 12:00AM

Mambo Meister finds his niche

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MIAMI – Mambo Meister served notice he could be a force to reckon with in the turf division during the remainder of this season, as well as this coming winter at Gulfstream Park, with an impressive 3 1/2-length victory over a strong field of older optional claiming horses here Friday.

The victory was the first on grass for Mambo Meister, a son of King Cugat, who had not tried the turf since early in his 2-year-old campaign last year. His final time of 1:33.94 for a mile was .28 of a second off the course record set by Dillonmyboy nearly eight years earlier. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for the performance.

“I always thought he’d be better on turf than dirt,” said Phil Gleaves, who trains Mambo Meister for the Quantum Racing Team. “We tried to get him on the grass a couple of times this year and got washed out due to the weather, but he’s been working very well over the turf. And he looked stronger to me in this race than he has all summer on the dirt.”

Gleaves also credited jockey Manoel Cruz for Mambo Meister’s big performance.

“I had told him to stay close to the pace, but they went so fast Manny let him settle back off the leaders and it really worked out nicely,” said Gleaves.

Among the horses Mambo Meister defeated was Jet Propulsion, who won the Grade 3 Miami Mile here in 2007 and was third in the Grade 3 Appleton at Gulfstream Park earlier this winter. Making his first start in more than nine months, Jet Propulsion set the pace, posting splits of 22.71 and 45.68 for the opening quarter- and half-mile. Mambo Meister began to accelerate suddenly leaving the backstretch, cut the corner turning for home, then eased out and drove past the tiring leader at midstretch. Jet Propulsion did run on willingly to easily finish second, three lengths in front of Baron Von Tap.

“We’ll look at the book and talk things over amongst the owners, but I’m pretty certain we’re going to keep him on turf from now on,” said Gleaves.

Options for Mambo Meister during the remainder of this meet include the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Dec. 6, or the $100,000 Pete Axthelm Stakes going 7 1/2 furlongs against straight 3-year-olds on Dec. 27.

McCauley picks up a winner

Veteran Herb McCauley posted a consecutive riding double on Friday, capturing the second race aboard Suffolk Downs invader Repent Not for trainer George Handy and the third event with Irish Cove for leading trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. Both horses were favored at 6-5.

McCauley picked up the mount aboard Irish Cove from Manny Aguilar, who sat out the card after escaping serious injury in a frightening spill the previous afternoon. Aguilar, who finished in a dead heat for seventh in the standings with 58 victories during the Calder meeting, was nursing soreness in his calf and arm and will not return until at least Thursday, according to his agent, Danny Nied Jr.

Ariel Smith has new agent

Former racing official turned jockey agent A.J. Prasaguet has taken over the riding engagements for Ariel Smith, who finished just ahead of Aguilar with 60 tallies during the Calder session. Smith won the Eclipse Award for top apprentice in 1999.

Prasaguet was also planning on taking the book of Javier Carrion, an up-and-coming apprentice from Panama who was scheduled to begin riding here later this week. But Prasaguet received word on Friday that Carrion was injured in a riding mishap just prior to departing for the U.S., and that he is sidelined indefinitely.

* Soldier’s Dancer worked six furlongs in 1:16.60 here Saturday, his first serious move since winning the Grade 3 Miami Mile on Oct. 18. Soldier’s Dancer is likely to make his next start in the Tropical Turf.