06/08/2009 11:00PM

Mannington shows consistency


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Terri Pompay and the My Purple Haze Stable took a gamble in January, running Mannington for a $35,000 claiming tag at Gulfstream Park.

Nobody took the 4-year-old that afternoon, a very fortunate development for the connections.

Mannington has blossomed over his last four races, making him a top contender Thursday in a $48,000 third-level allowance with a $50,000 claiming option.

The feature drew a well-balanced field of seven for the six-furlong race.

Pompay figured the claiming gambit was a worthwhile one. Mannington won $92,940 last year, and his prior form at Philadelphia Park in the fall showed three in-the-money finishes in four starts. He looked like a solid check earner, nothing more.

"The allowances at Gulfstream were tough, for not a lot of money, so we took a chance and put him in for $35,000," Pompay said. "We figured on form, at least for the first time, we could get away it."

He got second in that spot, followed by a third at Tampa Bay Downs.

Then the transformation began: four straight races with Mannington earning Beyer Speed Figures ranging from 89 to 93. In his latest, Mannington won a second-level allowance at Monmouth.

Pompay credits the turnaround to a combination of maturity and the end of the hind problems that bothered Mannington.

"He's built like a Quarter Horse," Pompay said. "He's short and wide and gives you everything he's got. He was always a little weak behind. When he got down to Florida, that disappeared. We're in a routine now where he wants to do it and he doesn't have anything bothering him."

Eddie Castro picks up the mount as regular rider Jose Lezcano has shifted his tack to Belmont Park.

Subtitles is the other last-out winner in the field, having scored a second-level allowance win at Philly Park in April. Stewart Elliott gets the return call from trainer Jim Ryerson.

Custer and Brush on By both come out of the Decathlon Stakes, the opening-day feature here. Neither did well in that spot. Brush on By was fifth, one spot better than Custer.

Sporty Boy faced the toughest competition last time, running fifth in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico. The 5-year-old gelding was a $25,000 claim by trainer Anthony Aguirre in March at Laurel.

Philharmonic and Dragon Fi, the only horse in the race for the $50,000 tag, complete the field.