A strong effort from the Tin Man, who faces seven rivals in the 1 1/4-mile turf test, would likely mean a date in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27, trainer Richard Mandella said. All carry 124 pounds in the Hirsch.
Mandella says The Tin Man, who has not been out since his second-place finish in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) Aug. 11, has this game all figured out.
"As he’s gotten older, he's matured to where he knows exactly what he's doing all the time," Mandella said. "He's very happy with himself and confident. It's a luxury to have that many years with a horse to go through that, which you don’t normally. I think he thinks everything is a big deal for him. Everywhere he goes, he's treated like a king, so why wouldn't he? He likes everything we do at this stage. He's trained very well since the Arlington Million and has had enough time to recover."
The Tin Man went one-up on old John Henry, now 32 and living at the Kentucky Horse Park, in last year's Hirsch. At 8, Ralph and Aury Todd’s Affirmed gelding became the oldest horse ever to win it. John Henry won the event three consecutive years before finishing second to Zalataia in 1983 when he was 8.
Persevering through numerous aliments over the years, The Tin Man may not have been as productive on the racetrack as John Henry, who won six of nine starts at the age of 9. But he has successfully overcome two bowed tendons.
The bay will be making his fourth start of 2007, with one victory to show so far -- in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park May 28. The Tin Man defeated T. H. Approval by a head in last year’s running of the Hirsch.
In his last start, the defending champion The Tin Man was overtaken by upsetter Jambalaya in the final strides of the Arlington Million. The Tin Man first won the Hirsch in 2002. Two years later, he returned to finish fourth before going to the sidelines for 14 months.
Since The Tin Man returned to the races in December 2005, he has never finished worse than second in nine starts, six of them victories. His preference for Santa Anita’s grass layout is undeniable -- he owns a 9-2-0 mark in 14 starts over the course. His lifetime earnings are $3,613,788 from a record of 13-7-2 in 30 career starts.
Victor Espinoza, who became only The Tin Man’s second jockey with the 2005 comeback, will be back aboard. Mike Smith rode the Kentucky homebred in his first 21 starts dating back to Sept. 30, 2001.
The Tin Man likes to race either on or close to the lead. He should have a distinct advantage in the Hirsch since he isn’t expected to have much company up front. The only other speed type appears to be Republican Hawk, who has never competed in any type of stakes race.
Rivals Runaway Dancer, Spring House and Toasted finished second, third and fourth, respectively, behind After Market in the Aug. 26 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) at 11 furlongs. They crossed the line three noses apart.
The Dan Hendricks trainee, Runaway Dancer, at 8, is just one year younger than The Tin Man. The gray gelding has been focusing on marathon turf distances during recent years. His last Santa Anita start at 1 1/4 miles was in the 2005 Hirsch, which The Tin Man skipped. Runaway Dancer wound up seventh in that race. His career earnings have reached $838,284 from an 8-5-5 record in 40 races for owners Kathleen and Michael Kennedy.
“There’s a little more pace going a mile-and-a-quarter, but it’s a little short for him,” Hendricks said. “He has gotten a mile before really super, but in shorter races, he needs a perfect scenario, that’s all."
$250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship (gr. IT, Race 9, 4:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Isipingo (KY), Aaron T. Gryder
2. Republican Hawk (KY), Mike E. Smith
3. The Tin Man (KY), Victor Espinoza
4. Toasted (KY), Michael C. Baze
5. Porfido (CHI), Joel Rosario
6. Runaway Dancer (KY), Alex O. Solis
7. Artiste Royal (IRE), Joseph Talamo
8. Spring House (KY), David R. Flores
Each assigned 124 pounds.