Day At The Track

Star power added to an already superb division

05:20 AM 08 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Manchego, Harness Racing
As a freshman, Manchego rewrote the history books with a perfect 12-for-12 season

When harness racing trainer Nancy Johansson answered her father's call, she was more than happy to hear she would be receiving a new horse in her barn. Her pleasure, however, escalated into sheer delight when the impending arrival's identity was revealed.

"When my dad (retired Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter) called, he said, 'Get ready for a new horse in your barn,'" said Johansson. "He said to begin preparing because the horse was on the way and then he said, 'Oh, the horse is Manchego.'"

It was announced shortly after her seventh-place finish in the $500,000 Breeders Crown on Oct. 27, 2018, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, that Manchego would be retired to become a broodmare. Owned at the time by John Fielding, Herb Liverman and Barry Guariglia's Black Horse Racing, the daughter of Muscle Hill-Secret Magic was conditioned by the recently retired Takter for the duration of her two-year career.

Guariglia, who is now Manchego's sole owner, intended to breed his 4-year-old mare to Walner after a winter vacation. His plans, however, were immediately altered after Takter's inspection of her physique subsequent to her return.

"I think people are going to be really surprised when they see her," said Johansson, who manages an operation of 47 to 48 head with her husband Marcus. "She has really filled out and grown. She looks terrific and we are very excited to have the opportunity to race a horse like her."

As a freshman, Manchego rewrote the history books with a perfect 12-for-12 season. Her major wins included the $330,800 Jim Doherty Memorial, the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, the $307,500 Peaceful Way final, and the $600,000 Breeders Crown final. She is the only undefeated 2-year-old filly trotter to win the Breeders Crown and the only unbeaten 2-year-old filly trotter to win a Dan Patch Award.

"She is one of the greatest 2-year-old filly trotters of all-time," Johansson said. "She is a very special horse."

Manchego's talent was again on display as a sophomore in one of the deepest divisions in recent memory. Not only did she have to contend with the likes of Trotter of the Year Atlanta, but world champion Plunge Blue Chip and the ever dangerous Phaetosive.

Like Atlanta, Manchego also took on male rivals and acquitted herself admirably. In fact, she defeated Crystal Fashion by a nose in her $25,000 Earl Beal Memorial elimination, broke stride in the $500,000 final of that contest for the first loss of her career and was second by a nose to Met's Hall in the Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial.

"That was a very talented group of 3-year-old trotting fillies," Johansson said. "She also raced against the boys, too, and it's quite possible she ran out of steam by the end of the season."

Nancy Johansson

In addition to her participation in those open events, Manchego captured the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, was nosed out by Plunge Blue Chip in world record time (1:49.4) in a $128,500 Delvin Miller Memorial division, and won the $172,000 Moni Maker.

For her career, the mare has banked $1.53 million and compiled an impressive record of 26-19-3-2. She sports a lifetime mark of 1:50.

Manchego's surprise return adds even more excitement to an already stellar division as Atlanta, Plunge Blue Chip and Phaetosive remain in training, as do 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover, dual Breeders Crown winner and O'Brien Award winner Emoticon Hanover and the talented Dream Together.

"I make it a special point to spend some time with her every day," Johansson said. "I feel like I am living in a dream; it's surreal. We are so very thankful."

Ken Weingartner

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