Ralph and Aury Todd's Affirmed gelding ran his current winning streak to four -- three of them coming in grade I races last year -- at a distance, eight furlongs, that's less than his best. Going back to his victory in San Marcos Handicap (gr. IIT) in January 2006, The Tin Man has won five of his last six for trainer Richard Mandella, the only defeat coming in a second-pace finish in the 2006 Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at Nad Al Sheba.
“He’s better now than he has ever been, loves what he’s doing, he’s confident and luckily he is healthy and sound,” Mandella said. “We turned him out a while back because he just got tired and stiff. After two months he came back fine. We might try the Arlington Million again, but we’re also thinking of trying him on the synthetic surface because he has trained very well on it, every work has been good. Anything this horse does is extra satisfactory right now.”
The Tin Man faced a tall order in the Shoemaker where he faced a number of top milers, including the favored Kip Deville, who won the Frank Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita and the Maker's Mark (gr. IIT) at Keeneland in his last two starts.
Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard The Tin Man for all of his recent races -- including back-to-back grade I wins in the Arlington Million and Clement L. Hirsch last year -- had The Tin Man forwardly placed on the outside as Willow O Wisp set the pace with Get Funky in close attendance. Kip Deville tracked the front-runners on the inside of The Tin Man through fractions of :24, :48 and 1:11 3/5. The Tin Man launched a three-wide bid coming off the final turn to gain a short lead mid-stretch. He won in a full drive under strong urging in the final eighth, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Get Funky, who noses Willow O Wisp for second. The final time was 1:34 1/5 on firm going.
He got all the credit from his jockey.
"Age doesn't seem to matter to him,” Espinoza said. “He runs like a young horse. He's unbelievable. I'm just happy to be on him. Richard knows how to train him. This is definitely not his best distance, he wants to go longer, but he's just too good a horse. That's why it was easy for him to win this race. He's got such a big heart."
Kip Deville, the 7-5 choice in the field of 10, angled out for the stretch run under Richard Migliore, but failed to kick it in and finished sixth.
"I didn't have much luck today," Migliore said. "The pace was very slow and I just got stuck inside those horses and just never had a good clean run. I wish I had the winner's position early. I was in the pocket hoping to get a clear run, but it didn't work out."
The homebred The Tin Man earned $238,920 for his 13th victory in 28 lifetime starts and has now banked $3,365,780.
Sent off as the second choice, he paid $9, $5.40 and $4.20. Get Funky, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., returned $15.20 and $8.80, completing as $149.60 exacta. The $1 trifecta with Willow O Wisp ($9.20 to show) was $777.80.
“He ran great,” trainer Vladimir Cerin said of Willow O Wisp. “I could just see they were walking on the front end, and I thought that if at one point we could just sneak away by a length and a half or two, we might have a good shot. But The Tin Man was the best horse and won deservedly. (Willow O Wisp) was a lot closer than last year and this was a much tougher race. A multiple grade I winner beat him, and you have the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) winner in second, so not a bad race.”
It was a neck back to grade I winner Becrux in fourth, followed by Right Special, Kip Deville, Chinese Dragon, Charmo, Vega's Lord and Fast and Furious.