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Manchego Delivers In 'Crown' Elimination

Published: October 19, 2019 9:46 pm ET

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Darling Mearas S emerged from the pocket late to nab the victory in a four-across finish in the first Breeders Crown elimination for older trotting mares on Saturday at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Trainer Ake Svanstedt enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the first $32,500 elim as 4-5 favourite Plunge Blue Chip closed from the backfield to edge out supplemental entry and race leader Custom Cantab (:27.3, :57, 1:26.1) for the runner-up role. Hannelore Hanover (Yannick Gingras) finished a close fourth after rallying off the cover of Dream Together (Bob McClure), who ended up fifth and will also advance to the final.

"She got herself in a good position there following Custom Cantab, who's a nice one to follow," said winning driver Dexter Dunn, who picked up the mount on Darling Mearas S with Svanstedt aboard Plunge Blue Chip. "She was really full of trot down the stretch and she really hit the line great.

"She's a really strong-going trotter. I drove her at The Meadowlands a few months ago [finishing second in the Miss Versatility Series], and I loved her. Dave [Miller on Custom Cantab] really put the speed on straightening up there and she wasn't missing a beat so she's looking in good shape for next week."

Winning in 1:53.2 at odds of 8-1 after finishing fourth last time out on Oct. 6 in the Allerage Farms Mares Open at The Red Mile, Darling Mearas S returned $17.40 to her backers at the betting windows.

A newcomer to North America this spring, the six-year-old Cantab Hall-Khao Manee mare has 15 career wins from 38 starts and earnings approaching $840,000 for owner/breeder Snogarps Gard.

Supergirl Riley (Simon Allard) broke stride behind the gate and judges ruled she did not receive a fair start prompting a refund.

Fresh off back-to-back world record miles, the Nancy Johansson-trained Manchego was the talk of the toteboard and didn't disappoint in her elimination.

Dexter Dunn swept the eliminations for older trotting mares as he hustled 1-5 favourite Manchego across the track from the outermost post eight to claim the top spot. The four-year-old Muscle Hill-Secret Magic mare carved out panels of :27, :56.4 and 1:25.2 without facing any major threats. Despite drifting away from the pylons in the stretch, she held off Emoticon Hanover (Bob McClure) for the one-length victory in 1:52.3.

Weslyn Dancer (Scott Zeron) closed off cover to finish third while Ice Attraction (Andrew McCarthy) and Highland Top Hill (Doug McNair) followed in fourth and fifth, respectively.

"She put in two great performances in her last two starts. It was a hard mile there at Lexington but she felt great again tonight," said Dunn. "She really did that mile easy and she's just in great form at the moment."

When asked about the stretch drive, Dunn said, "That's just her; she gets her head cranked around to the left a little bit and runs out a touch but you just let her do her thing. The main thing was she was full of [trot] at the line."

Approaching the $2 million earnings mark, Manchego is a winner of 25 races lifetime including six this year (and four-in-a-row) from 14 starts for Black Horse Racing.

"She's just exceptional; there's really no other words to describe her," praised Johansson. "She loves to do her job, she likes to be in control of things and she just goes.

"I have a really good team up here in Canada so we work together and the horses get the best care that they can get. This week it's mainly just maintaining everything and they'll all train lightly this week and hopefully we can have them perfect for next week.

"I shipped my horses right up from Lexington to here so they've kind of acclimated. They've been in Canada now for a week... most of these guys spent the entire summer in Canada so they're kind of used to being here. It's like a second home for them."

Here is a look at the field in post position order for the final:

$325,000 Open Mares Trot
1. Weslynn Dancer
2. Ice Attraction
3. Plunge Blue Chip
4. Manchego
5. Darling Mearas S
6. Hannelore Hanover
7. Highland Top Hill
8. Dream Together
9. Custom Cantab
10. Emoticon Hanover

The 2019 Breeders Crown, presented by Libfeld-Katz Breeding Partnership, will be contested next weekend at Woodbine Mohawk Park with the championships for three-year-olds and up set for Saturday, Oct. 26.

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