Mambo Meister, second in last year's Miami Mile Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO), got the job done this time around for jockey Manoel Cruz when he nabbed favored Pinckney Hill at the wire on opening day of the 2010 season at Calder Casino and Racetrack April 25.
The stalking Mambo Meister angled to the outside approaching mid-stretch and swept past three rivals to get up by a head over Pinckney Hill. The 5-year-old son of King Cugat, trained by Philip Gleaves for Quantum Racing Team, appreciated the return to Calder, where he has posted all eight of his career victories. Five of those wins came on the main track, the last coming in the Spend A Buck Handicap (gr. III) last October.
Mambo Meister started the year with three consecutive losses at Gulfstream Park, including an eighth-place finish in the one-mile Canadian Turf Stakes (gr, IIIT) in his last start Feb. 20.
Gleaves said he thought a 30-day break on the farm since his last race did Mambo Meister "a world of good."
"This field came up tougher than I would have thought, so I’m very pleased with him," he added. "In his last race, I think the turf was a little harder than he prefers. We’ve already talked it over and decided that he’ll stay here for the ($100,000) Memorial Day race (May 31) on the main track next. He loves it here.”
Cruz put Mambo Meister in a stalking spot in fourth toward the inside as Fearless Eagle and rider Paco Lopez set a pedestrian pace with Pinckney Hill and Rajiv Maragh in second. The speedy Jet Propulsion was compromised when he hopped at the start and was forced to hustle early to chase the pace in third before giving way on the final turn and finishing last. Quarter-mile fractions were :24.12 :47.51 and 1:11.28.
Pinckney Hill took the lead in the lane and appeared poised to stake his first added-money victory as the 8-5 choice, but he weakened in deep stretch, allowing the charging Mambo Meister to get up in a final time of 1:35.04 over firm ground. Pleasant Strike closed willingly to finish third, three-quarters of length behind. March to Victory ran fourth followed by Fearless Eagle,Storm Caller, Stones River and Jet Propulsion.
Cruz said Mambo Meister always provides a good late kick no matter the pace.
"I just waited and let him get in stride and tell me when he was ready to move,” he said.
Mambo Meister improved his career mark to 8-4-5 in 27 races with earnings of more than $421,000. He enjoyed a much cleaner trip than in last year's Miami Mile, when he was crowded on the final turn and rallied belatedly to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Wesley. Mambo Meister now owns three wins in six starts on the Calder turf course and has not been out of the money.
J.R. Cavanaugh bred the winning bay gelding in Kentucky. Mambo Meister is out of Bleu'slittlesecret, by Desert Secret.
Mambo Meister carried 118 pounds, one less than the top-weighted Jet Propulsion, and paid $13.60, $5 and $3.40. Pinckney Hill came into the race off back-to-back allowance turf wins at Gulfstream Park for trainer Angel Penna Jr. He returned $3.40 and $2.40 and completed a $44.60 exacta. Edward P. Evans' homebred Pleasant Strike paid $3 to show in his 2010 bow for trainer Todd Pletcher.