12/28/2010 1:32PM

Manicero has plenty of options after Inaugural win

John Duca/Tom Cooley
Manicero wins his third straight race in Sunday's Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

MIAMI – Trainer Leo Azpurua Jr.’s rising 2-year-old hopeful Manicero is back at his Calder base looking for new worlds to conquer after posting his second straight stakes victory Sunday, a hard-fought, one-length decision in Tampa Bay Downs’ Inaugural.

The win was the third in a row and easily the toughest yet for the son of Mass Media who dominated his competition winning his maiden and capturing the Jack Price Juvenile here earlier this fall.

Manicero, under regular rider Luis Saez, was pinched back early and had to rally from off the pace in the six-furlong Inaugural, eventually pulling well clear in early stretch before holding off a late surge from fellow Calder invader Bert B. Don.

“He broke well, but the boy told me he had a little problem with the horses on his inside and outside, that they tried to sandwich him a little, so he just took a hold and sat chilly,” Azpurua said. “He then bided his time, went to the inside, and after getting the lead dug in nicely to hold on for the win.”

Although the margin of victory was just a length, Azpurua was very pleased with the performance.

“I thought it was a huge race, not only because he demonstrated for the second time in his career that he could rate and come off the pace but because he won racing down on the inside,” said Azpurua who trains Manicero for his father Leo Azpurua Sr. “From what I have been told and what I’ve seen, the inside part of the track is deeper at Tampa. You don’t see many horses come up the rail like that and win.”

Azpurua will now bide his time and weigh his options for Manicero, who is nominated to a pair of upcoming races at Gulfstream Park, the Spectacular Bid and Holy Bull, along with Tampa’s Pasco. The Spectacular Bid will be decided at six furlongs Jan. 8, the Holy Bull at a mile Jan. 30, and the Pasco at seven-eighths Jan. 15.

“We’ll see how he comes back off this race, what his attitude is,” Azpurua said. “To come back in the Spectacular Bid would be a quick turnaround, and even though he did it from his maiden win to the Jack Price, he’s facing open company now. Normally, I like to give my horses time between races, and considering the competition he’s going to be facing this winter, I’d rather be on the conservative side.”

Boys At Tosconova eyes Holy Bull

If he goes in the Holy Bull, Manicero could face a couple of speedballs in Boys At Tosconova, runner-up behind division leader Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Gangsterontherun, an impressive maiden winner at Parx Racing for trainer Wesley Ward.

Trainer Rick Dutrow confirmed Monday that he was pointing Boys At Tosconova, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful, to the Holy Bull.

“He’s doing well since coming down here and providing he continues to show he likes the track, the Holy Bull will be his first start,” Dutrow said. “I know he’ll go the mile, then we’ll have to see beyond that. If he continues to do well, I’d like to stay here for the Florida Derby.”

Dutrow also said his other leading 2-year-old prospect Mountain Town would likely target the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26 as his first major objective of the season. Mountain Town finished second in the Grade 1 Champagne behind Uncle Mo and third in the Grade 2 Remsen to round out his juvenile campaign.

“It looks like he’ll go two turns,” Dutrow said of Mountain Town. “I would like to get an allowance race into him before the Fountain of Youth.”

Stage Door Betty tops Saturday stakes

Three of the final four stakes of the 2010-2011 Calder season will be run Saturday, led by the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty and the grassy Tropical Park Derby for 3-year-olds. The 12-race card also includes the Tropical Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. The Grade 3 La Prevoyante rounds out the stakes schedule on Sunday.

The Grade 3 Stage Door Betty drew a field of 11 older fillies and mares, led by co-highweights Quiet Temper and Funny Moon. They’ll be joined by key contenders such as Joanie’s Catch, Toocleverforwords, Amazing, and Musical Romance.

Despite losing its graded status this year, the Tropical Park Derby still drew a full and competitive field that includes trainer Michael Matz’s East of Danzig who brings a two-race win streak into his 3-year-old debut. Matz used the then Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby as a springboard to later victories in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby for Barbaro in 2006.