Arlington Park Race Report: Off the Bench

Published in the July 27 issue of The Blood-Horse
Wally Dollase's first-string 3-year-olds couldn't get the job done at Arlington Park in June, so the trainer went to his bench for the $225,000 American Derby (gr. IIT) on July 21. And Mananan McLir proved he's no bench-warmer, battling to a three-quarter-length triumph.

The win was worth $135,000 for the ownership group headed by Michael Jarvis and Gary Margolis. It came after Dollase's uncoupled entry ran second and seventh in the Arlington Classic (gr. IIT) on June 29, the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple for 3-year-old turf runners. The Mananan McLir partnership, which includes Dollase's Horizon Stable, also races Classic runner-up Doc Holiday. Dollase judged that Mananan McLir would be better suited to the 1 3/16-mile Derby distance than Doc Holiday, who remained back at Hollywood Park.

Mananan McLir's dramatic last-to-first victory robbed trainer Dermot Weld of his second American Derby triumph in three years, having won in 2000 with Pine Dance. Runner-up Jazz Beat, bred and raced in Ireland by Moyglare Stud, had grabbed the lead from tiring Cappuchino a furlong from the finish, but could not withstand the winner's rally.

"I thought I had my second American Derby in the bag for a moment there, but the winner had more pace on the day," Weld said.

Both Weld and jockey Pat Smullen lamented that the pace was too slow for Jazz Beat, who appeared keen to go on but was kept under a tight hold by Smullen in the colt's U.S. debut. Jazz Beat, a slight 2-1 favorite over Mananan McLir in the field of eight, raced in mid-pack as Cappuchino and Afleet Buck set moderate early fractions of :25.16, :49.89 and 1:14.44. Cappuchino while Afleet Buck was eighth. Stretch-running Extra Check rallied for third.

"The only reason he didn't win is the slow pace of the race," Weld said of Jazz Beat. "Both horses quickened down the straight, but the winner just had a shade more pace."

Like Jazz Beat, Mananan McLir began his racing career in Europe, running seven mediocre races for trainer John Gosden at two before Dollase plucked him out of the Tattersalls Autumn 2001 horses in training sale for 60,000 guineas ($95,000). Ironically, Doc Holiday came out of that same sale for a purchase price of 135,000 guineas($200,000).

Mananan McLir, a Kentucky-bred son of Royal Academy out of the St. Jovite mare St Lucinda, had sold at Keeneland as a weanling for $180,000.

Asked about the ownership group, Margolis, an accountant, said, "I know this because I do this group's taxes." But after naming 75% interest, including his and Jarvis' 20% apiece, even he was stumped as to the entire partnership's breakdown. Dollase said every horse has a different set of partners.

"These people have an opportunity to run at this level," Dollase said in explaining why he likes the partnership concept. "It's also a selfish interest for me because I want to buy better horses. I have a small, quality stable (of about 25 horses). I enjoy that more than having the numbers. I'm not a numbers guy. It's a challenge for me and a thrill for these owners."

The thrills even extend to watching replays in the winner's reception room. In the early stages of the replay, one owner blurted out to jockey Rene Douglas, "Come on, Rene, you're going to have to move up." Then, just as he had live 20 minutes earlier, Douglas mounted his dramatic stretch charge, culminating with his cocking of the whip in jubliation a few strides before the line.

Dollase and Weld both indicated their colts would likely return for the final leg of the series, the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 17. Mr. Mellon, the Classic winner, is possible for the Secretariat, although trainer Elliott Walden is also considering the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Aug. 4. Dollase, who admitted that there were "no real hot-shotters" in the Derby, allowing for his horse to rally despite the soft fractions, should be even more ready the third time around. b

Finish Lines
The day before the American Derby, crack sprinter Bonapaw showed his heels to six rivals in the Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III), rolling to a 2 1/4-length victory in 1:34.00...Rene Douglas, Arlington's leading rider, won the first five races of the day on the Hanshin undercard. Track publicists could find no record of another jockey starting a day at Arlington with five straight winners. By Jeff Johnson

(Chart, Equibase)