12/09/2010 1:55PM

Mambo Meister out for big season-ender in Fred Hooper

Jim Lisa Photos
Mambo Meister, Manny Cruz up, wins the Miami Mile

MIAMI – Mambo Meister will attempt to cap off a second straight outstanding season with another graded stakes win when he carries high weight of 120 pounds in Saturday’s Grade 3 Fred Hooper Handicap at Calder.

Mambo Meister won 3 of 10 starts, earned $229,000, and ran credibly in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2009. He has been even a little better this year, having won 2 of 9 tries, with both victories coming in Grade 3 races here earlier in the campaign. A win in the nine-furlong Hooper would push his 2010 earnings over the $300,000 mark.

Mambo Meister has not started since finishing a well-beaten second behind the loose-on-the lead Mad Flatter as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Spend A Buck Handicap on Oct. 16 but has trained well in the interim. He should find a more contested pace to run at on Saturday with Tackleberry and Chirac expected to cut out honest fractions. Perhaps his backers’ main concern would be the fact Mambo Meister has never won at 1 1/8 miles, although his trainer, Phil Gleaves, does not believe that will be an issue.

“Although he’s never won at a mile and one eighth, I think it’s well within his scope,” said Gleaves. “He’s won at a mile and a sixteenth several times, and when he does he always seem to be closing ground at the end. He was just left with a little too much ground to make up behind a horse who is very good when he gets loose on the lead like Mad Flatter did last time. There looks like there will be a lot more pace in this race. At least I hope it works out that way. He’s maintaining his form very well, and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

Manny Cruz, who guided Mambo Meister to both his Grade 3 victories during the spring, will make up the bulk of the 120-pound assignment.

Chirac is the only other graded stakes winner in the field, having taken Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Iselin during the summer of 2009. He went to the sidelines for 11 months following that victory and is winless in three starts on the comeback trail although has finished second or third in each of those outings, all stakes, at Monmouth Park.

Tackleberry brings a three-race winning streak into his graded stakes debut but has never won beyond a mile.

St. Maximus Gato is a lightly raced but improving 3-year-old who finished third behind division leader Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby on Oct. 2.

Imperial Council is multiple Grade 2-placed but finished a well-beaten sixth under mid-level optional claiming and allowance conditions in his last start at Philadelphia Park.