12/11/2010 6:56PM

Tackleberry shows true grit reaching wire first in Fred Hooper Handicap

Jim Lisa
Tackleberry, on the rail with jockey Javier Santiago, holds off Dream Maestro by a nose in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap.

 MIAMI - Tackleberry’s graded stakes debut was a memorable one.

Stretching out beyond a mile for the first time in his career, Tackleberry set a contested pace, then fought back bravely when headed by 25-1 Dream Maestro at midstretch to post a game nose triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Fred. W. Hooper Handicap. Mambo Meister, the 8-5 favorite, finished another three lengths farther back in the Grade 3 stakes at Calder.

Tackleberry had won four of his last five starts, including the six-furlong Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap four weeks ago. He led throughout to post a 1 3/4-length allowance win in his only previous start around two turns prior to the 1 1/8-mile Hooper.

With regular rider Javier Santiago aboard, Tackleberry set the pace as expected from the rail with Cash Rules pressing the leader through fractions of 24.17 seconds, 48.60, and 1:14.24. Dream Maestro sat a dream trip. Saving ground from the second flight, Dream Maestro advanced to close contention leaving the backstretch, then eased out slightly and overtook Tackleberry to gain a short advantage between calls inside the eighth pole. But Tackleberry was not to be denied, re-asserting himself along the rail to win the head bob at the wire.

Mambo Meister, the only multiple graded stakes winner in the field, came four-wide with his rally into the stretch but could not gain ground on the two leaders while drifting slightly nearing the wire.
Tackleberry completed the distance in 1:54.42 over a fast track and paid $15.40. The winner is owned and trained by Luis Olivares.

“I told the kid to let him go and take the lead,” said Olivares. “He’ll fight back when he needs to and he did.”

Olivares said Tackleberry would now be pointed for the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream, which is also run at 1 1/8 miles, on Jan. 29.