Day At The Track

Manchego to face seven Hambo starters in Zweig

06:48 AM 16 Aug 2018 NZST
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Manchego, harness racing
Manchego and driver Yannick Gingras win the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks
Lisa Photo

The public's faith in 3-year-old female trotter Manchego wavered ever so slightly earlier this month in the Hambletonian Oaks, when for the first time in her career she was not the favorite, but she looked to restore confidence with her stakes-record 1:50 win in the event. Now, she will try to bolster her status by taking on the boys in Friday's $350,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Open Trot at Vernon Downs in upstate New York.

Manchego is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Zweig, where she will face a field of eight male rivals. Manchego, who has won 17 of 19 career races, will start from post No. 2 with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Jimmy Takter. She will try to become the first filly since Moni Maker in 1996 to win an open division of the Zweig.

The card also includes the $180,000 fillies-only division of the Zweig, which features stakes-winner and world-record-holder Plunge Blue Chip and Frank Zanzuccki Trot winner Basquiat. In addition, there is an $80,000 Zweig consolation division for the colts. Racing begins at 6:10 p.m. (EDT).

Prior to wins in her Oaks elimination and the final, Manchego saw her career-opening 15-race victory streak snapped when she went off stride in the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on June 30 and got beat by a nose by Plunge Blue Chip in her world-record 1:49.4 mile on July 14 at The Meadowlands.

The 2017 Dan Patch Award-winner also saw a streak of 20 consecutive appearances in the sport's Top 10 dating back to last season come to an end. She returned to the Top 10 following her win in the Oaks.

"She showed up (in the Hambletonian Oaks) and she was huge," said Barry Guariglia, whose Black Horse Racing is among Manchego's owners with John Fielding and Herb Liverman. "I thought the elim and the final was what she's all about. If you take a step back and look at the disappointment when she made that break in the Beal, there are no other blemishes to speak of. I'm very pleased with her."

Guariglia knew Manchego's win streak would come to an end at some point, and to see it happen when she made the break on the final turn of the Beal while challenging for the lead softened the blow.

"I knew it would happen eventually," Guariglia said. "To do it that way was almost better because you had no shot instead of getting nosed out on the line. It wasn't for lack of ability."

As for missing by a nose the honor of being the fastest 3-year-old trotter in harness racing history, Guariglia said, "That other filly went the race of her life. It happens. That's the only thing missing, that mark by a tick, but I've got a funny feeling somewhere down the road maybe we'll get a shot at it again."

Manchego's connections bypassed the opportunity to race the boys in the Hambletonian, preferring instead to compete in the all-filly Oaks. It paid off, with Gingras and Takter teaming for their fifth consecutive win in the event.

On Friday, Manchego will see a number of colts from the Hambletonian, including second-place finisher Met's Hall, Alarm Detector, Classichap, Evaluate, Fashionwoodchopper, Patent Leather, and Six Pack. The Hambletonian was won by another filly, Atlanta. She was not eligible to the Zweig.

"It's one heat, so we thought we would try it again," Guariglia said about facing the boys, which Manchego also did in the Beal. "We'll see what happens. We drew well. It looks like a pretty competitive race.

"I take every week as a challenge. You're kind of expected to win week to week, so it's a little bit harder maybe mentally. But I don't take anything or anybody for granted because it's a horserace."

Guariglia, a financial advisor, has enjoyed harness racing for more than 40 years. He was at the Meadowlands Racetrack when it opened in 1976 and got into racehorse ownership at the age of 27. Winning the Oaks was a thrill.

"I never won anything like the Oaks, never a race that big, on Hambo Day," Guariglia said. "That was a lot of fun. It was a little chaotic in the winner's circle but that's OK too. It was a nice crowd, a nice spot to be.

"It's wonderful. It doesn't get any better."

Following are the fields for the $350,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Open Trot and $180,000 Zweig filly division. The main event is race No. 9, with a planned 8:50 p.m. (EDT) post. It will be preceded by the filly race at 8:30.

Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Open Trot
PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line
1-Patent Leather-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-10/1
2-Manchego-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-5/2
3-Evaluate-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-10/1
4-Fashionwoodchopper-David Miller-Jim Campbell-6/1
5-Alarm Detector-Scott Zeron-Ben Baillargeon-8/1
6-Six Pack-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-7/2
7-Classichap-Trond Smedshammer-Trond Smedshammer-12/1
8-Met's Hall-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-9/2
9-Clive Bigsby-Corey Callahan-George Ducharme-8/1

Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Filly Trot
PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line
1-The Russian Spy-Corey Callahan-Paul Kelley-8/1
2-Supergirl Riley-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller-9/2
3-Cherry Peep-Dan Daley-Dan Daley-10/1
4-Basquiat-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-7/2
5-Perfect Summer K-David Miller-Andrew Harris-6/1
6-Plunge Blue Chip-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-5/2
7-A Gift For You-Scott Zeron-George Ducharme-8/1
8-Mooshka Stride-Tim Tetrick-Mark Harder-10/1

by Ken Weingartner, the USTA 

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