Mambo Meister ran very well in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), finishing fifth while beaten only two lengths. That race was on Santa Anita Park’s Pro-Ride surface. This year’s BC Dirt Mile is at Churchill Downs—on real dirt. It’s a surface that suits the 5-year-old gelding a lot better.
Trainer Phil Gleaves is hoping to give Mambo Meister another shot in the Dirt Mile, but he needs to see his charge earn it. The son of King Cugat will try to do that in the $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap (gr. III), a race he won by 3 3/4 lengths a year ago. The probable favorite will carry top weight of 122 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile race Oct. 16 at Calder Casino & Race Course. A field of nine was drawn for the " Breeders' Cup Win and You're In" event.
The Spend a Buck is the feature on Calder’s 13-race “Festival of the Sun” program. The card also includes the $75,000 Calder Derby and $75,000 Calder Oaks, and the final two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes series for 2-year-olds—each of them carrying a $350,000 purse.
A winning effort in the Spend a Buck will likely send Mambo Meister on his way to Churchill Downs. Gleaves is cautiously optimistic that he will run well, but after coming off back-to-back poor efforts, there is reason for pause. Mambo Meister was sixth in both the Aug. 8 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (gr. I) at Saratoga and Sept. 10 Presque Isle Downs Mile.
“We’re very happy with where he is at. He’s had three breezes since the Presque Isle race, all of them excellent,” said Gleaves. “He seems to be at the top of his game.
“We’re optimistic, but we need to visually see it before we can go any further. It’s a bit premature to talk Breeders’ Cup coming off his last two poor efforts. It has been our goal after he ran well last year, but let’s see what happens in the Spend a Buck first.”
Gleaves said Mambo Meister was kept too close to a hot pace in the Vanderbilt and thinks he was bothered by the night racing at Presque Isle in his first start under lights. He expects him to return to form on Oct. 16, especially at his home racetrack. All nine of his lifetime wins have come at Calder, including the Miami Mile Handicap (gr. IIIT) in April on turf and Memorial Day Handicap (gr. III) on dirt. They are his only two wins from eight starts this season.
Manoel Cruz will have the mount on Mambo Meister, who was bred in Kentucky by J. R. Cavanaugh and is out of the Desert Secret mare Bleu’slittlesecret. He has earned more than $550,000 from 31 starts.
The meet’s leading rider, Luis Saez, will be aboard 3-year-old El Kingdom for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. The son of El Prado enters off a 5 1/4-length romp in the Needles Stakes at Calder, which came over an off track. This will be his graded stakes debut.
Also in the mix is Sincero, a winner in two of his last three starts—both on turf. The 4-year-old colt was entered despite winning an allowance race last Sunday, Oct. 10. Sincero, by Repent, was fifth in last year’s Florida Derby (gr. I).
The final leg of the Florida Stallion Stakes will include a pair of juveniles attempting to sweep the series. Our Sugar Bear Stable’s Gourmet Dinner will try to remain undefeated in the $350,000 In Reality Stakes for males going 1 1/16 miles. Gourmet Dinner, by Trippi, has won all three of his starts, including the Florida Stallion Affirmed Stakes last out.
Jacks or Better Farm’s Awesome Feather will also put a perfect record on the line in the My Girl Stakes for juvenile fillies. The daughter of Awesome of Course is unbeaten in four tries, including the Florida Stallion Susan’s Girl Stakes Aug. 28.
If Gourmet Dinner and Awesome Feather win, they would be the first pair to sweep both divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes series since 1982.
$100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap (gr. III, Race 10, 5:11 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Riversrunrylee (FL), C Olivero, 117, B N Croft
2. Wingedlie (FL), L Jurado, 117, J Negrete
3. Cinnamon Road (FL), J Santiago, 115, J D Braddy
4. Mambo Meister (KY), M R Cruz, 122, P A Gleaves
5. Sincero (FL), D Coa, 118, M J Azpurua
6. Dream Maestro (FL), E Coa, 116, W A Kaplan
7. King Ghidorah (FL), L Garcia, 113, B Parboo
8. El Kingdom (KY), L Saez, 116, E Plesa Jr.
9. Mad Flatter (FL), J K Court, 116, J D Thornbury