Manchego took a successful first step into what could be a year to remember in 2018, making the lead in front of the stands and going on to a commanding victory without appearing to hit high gear, yet stopping the timer in 1:53, within a fifth of her mark, in her section of the $169,040 second preliminary leg of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes Monday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Yannick Gingras let two outside leavers go to the top early, first Courtney Hanover then Live Laugh Love, then moved Manchego frontward at the :27.3 quarter. Moving to command just under the wire the first time, Manchego hit the half in :56.3, then went to the three-quarters has fin 1:24.4 with Live Laugh Love, a first leg Sires Stakes winner, looking up on the bit in behind her going around the far turn.
But in the stretch Manchego just got more powerful without appearing to downshift, with Gingras sitting chilly behind. She won by 1½ lengths over a very game Live Laugh Love.
Manchego, now undefeated in 13 career starts and a winner of $902,168, is trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter for Black Horse Racing, John Fielding, and Herb Liverman. Earlier in the card, Barry Guariglia of Black Horse Racing joined Team Takter to be presented the 2017 Pennsylvania Sires Stakes Horse of the Year by the Keystone Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association; whether the Muscle Hill filly will again race in the 2018 Sires Stakes or follow a different schedule will depend, according to Takter, on how the filly is racing and "what she is showing us."
Nixie Volo overcame a tough first-over grind to take her Sires Stakes division in dominant fashion, 1¾ lengths to the good over Winbak Noelle. Corey Callahan sent the daughter of Yankee Glide outside before the half, gradually worked up to the leader, then asserted herself in the lane, winning in 1:54.3 while gaining into a :57 back half. Nixie Volo, who missed a head to Live Laugh Love in the first Sires Stakes leg, won for the first time this season for trainer John Butenschoen and the ownership of Kentuckiana Racing Stable, VIP Internet Stable LLC, 83 Racing, and Eddie Gran.
The 15-1 shot Piranha Fury came fastest of all late to take her Sires Stakes division in 1:54.2. Vivacious Allie refused to surrender the lead when favored Lily Stride came calling, resulting in fast fractions for this type, with Piranha Fury third-over behind advancing cover. Through the last half of the stretch driver David Miller was handling the filly confidently while "measuring" the victory, winning by a length over the game frontstepper Vivacious Allie. The victorious daughter of Donato Hanover now has two wins and two seconds in five seasonal starts for trainer Nifty Norman and the ownership of Melvin Hartman, Little E LLC, and Diamond Creek Racing. (Pocono/PHHA)