08/24/2003 11:00PM

Monmouth: Bravo, Manning team up again

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - One day after pulling off the upset with Valid Video in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, the team of Dennis Manning and Joe Bravo struck again Sunday afternoon with Ballonenostrikes in the $50,000 Choice Stakes.

"We're on a roll," Manning said. "Bravo can ride and my horses can run. I'm just along for the ride."

Bravo returned the compliment.

"He's the man," said the meet's leading rider. "He brings them to the races and I just have to hang on."

Bravo sat patiently on Ballonenostrikes in the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds. He didn't have much choice, as the headstrong Dream Deliverer bounded to the front and opened up a six-length lead.

Bravo, as he did in the King's Bishop, bided his time until the stretch before making the decisive move.

Ballonenostrikes rallied strongly to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Dream Deliverer held on for second with Prince Benjamin third.

Manning was quietly confident going into the race.

"I knew something nobody else did," Manning said. "He had a real bad pus pocket in a foot, and he ran on it the last couple of times. After the last time, it popped out."

Ballonenostrikes stopped the clock in 1:47.87 on the firm course and paid $11.80 to win.