Leo Azpurua, Jr. already had a good 3-year-old colt in the multiple main track
stakes winning Manicero, but now enters a new dimension as the Florida-bred son
of Mass Media won the $75,000 Needles Stakes on turf at Calder Casino &
Race Course on Saturday. The race marked Manicero’s eighth victory from
11 lifetime starts, seven of those in stakes.
was making his turf course debut in the Needles and delivered a terrific
stretch run to pass the pacesetting Oligarch and hold off Star of Sarava by a
half-length and get the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.15 over a firm course. It
was five lengths back to Oligarch in third.
was sent off as the even-money favorite with jockey Juan Leyva in the irons.
He paid $4.00, $3.20, and $3.20 (price OK). Star of Sarava paid
$8.20 and $5.80, while Oligarch returned $4.40.
$45,000 winner’s share of the purse pushes Manicero’s career earnings to
Azpurua, Jr. – “He had to run hard, but he
answered another question today (first time on turf). He’s done everything
we’ve asked of him and we’ve tried to bring him along step by step. We want him
to be around a long time. We talked about the Indiana Derby and he’s nominated,
but I’m going to pass. It’s just two weeks and I don’t want to do that. We have
lots of options. We’ll nominate for the Jamaica at Belmont, the Hawthorne Derby
(Chicago), and the Tropical Park Derby here. Now we know we have the option
that if a turf race comes off we can go either way.”
Leyva – “It’s like I said last time when
he won the Naked Greed Stakes, this horse is just the perfect horse to
ride. Aside from how talented he is, he just does everything you want him
to do as easy as can be. We thought about taking the lead, but when the
other two went ahead for it, I just tucked in behind them and he settled
perfectly. When I asked him to go, he just ran them down and when Star of
Sarava came at us in the stretch, he had another gear.”