The daughter of Storm Boot went gate to wire in the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack Aug. 13. Trained by Steve Klesaris for Puglisi Racing and TYB Stable, Mani Bhavan is one of eight entered in the Spinaway, the biggest race of the Saratoga season for 2-year-old fillies.
A 9 1/4-length winner at first asking at odds of 7-1 a month before the Adirondack, it is somewhat understandable that Mani Bhavan was overlooked by Saratoga bettors. After all, she won her debut at Delaware Park going five furlongs after getting loose on the front end against a suspect field. And she was being asked to run an extra three-sixteenth of a mile against much steeper company. So off she went once again to show the way, and once again she didn't stop, opening a four-length advantage at the top of the lane and coasting home at odds of 17-2.
“I was surprised that she didn’t get the respect I thought she deserved (in the Adirondack),” said Klesaris. “I knew she was a talented horse, and her numbers put her right in there with the best of them. After she won at Delaware, we thought about bringing her up for the Schuylerville, but it was a little too quick. Fortunately, it rained and that made the decision not to run there and wait for the Adirondack a lot easier.”
A $30,000 buy at Keeneland's 2007 September Yearling Sale, Mani Bhavan was ridden in the Adirondack for the first time by Alan Garcia, who has the mount once again.
Klesaris, a trainer on the New York circuit before relocating to Delaware Park several years ago, is enthused by Mani Bhavan’s development but smart enough to keep his focus.
“She won her first two races very easily,” he said. “Alan never even used the whip; he just flagged her a little. As part of our program, we school our horses behind other horses, so I have no doubt that if Alan has to come from off the pace, he can. The thing is that, so far, she has shown just incredible quickness. She is like a missile coming out of the gate and then she gets into gear quickly and has a high cruising speed.
“She is a very talented filly, but you have to realize that there are a lot of good races coming up and, of course, the races next year. You want to make sure that she continues to develop and stays healthy. Meanwhile, you try to enjoy the run you’re on.”
This time, Mani Bhavan will be making an 18-day turnaround, shorter than any of her competitors, and faces a field laden with speed. So there's bound to be bettors who figure that if they've missed all the fun, why come late to the party. And for them, there are several ways to turn.
Padua Stables' Jardin, for instance, is undefeated in two starts as well and upset the opening-day Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) by four lengths at 12-1. The Florida-bred daughter of Montbrook has had things her way so far.
“We’re going to see how she takes dirt in her face,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “She’s always had a very sweet tracking position and that won’t be the case in this race.”
Also coming out of the Schuylerville is the closer Girlfrienontheside, who was nosed for second at long odds, and fourth-place finisher Collegiate. The result, though, is difficult to trust as it was contested on an extremely slick and sloppy surface and won in 1:12.79.
A firm track in the Spinaway would point to Collegiate, who is owned by Team Valor International and trained by Mark Hennig. A daughter of Saarland, Collegiate gained some notice when she broke her maiden at Belmont Park in her first start June 19 by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of :57.53 for five furlongs. That was her only start prior to the Schuylerville.
Looking past the stakes performers at the Saratoga meeting yields a couple of interesting possibilities as well. Mine All Mine, by Belong to Me, splashed to a maiden victory by nearly 10 lengths over a sloppy track July 24. Her trainer, Wesley Ward, has been on fire at the meet with eight wins in 21 starts. Ward also sends out August Rush, a maiden debut winner by Milwaukee Brew , who won by a neck on a yielding Mellon turf course July 28.
Edward P. Evans' homebred Casanova Move, by Langfuhr , made a nice impression at Saratoga Aug. 10, beating maidens in her second start for trainer Jimmy Jerkens by more than nine lengths on a good main track.
Winning Brew, off since finishing sixth in the Astoria Stakes at Belmont two months ago, completes the field. She is also a daugher of Milwaukee Brew.
$250,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:56 p.m.), 2-Year-Old Fillies, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Girlfrienontheside (KY), Cornelio H. Velasquez
2. Winning Brew (FL), Jose L. Espinoza
3. Casanova Move (VA), Eibar Coa
4. Jardin (FL), Robby Albarado
5. Mine All Mine (KY), John R. Velazquez
6. Collegiate (KY), Edgar S. Prado
7. August Rush (FL), Julio A. Garcia
8. Mani Bhavan (KY), Alan Garcia
Each assigned 119 pounds.