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Manchego Staves Off Atlanta

Published: June 20, 2020 12:17 am ET

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In a much-anticipated showdown with archrival Atlanta in the $40,000 first round of the Miss Versatility series headlined the Friday night (June 19) marathon 18-race card at The Meadowlands, Black Horse Racing's Manchego ($2.60) proved a determined 1:50 winner in a scintillating stretch duel.

Just two weeks after capturing her five-year-old debut in 1:50.3, the daughter of Muscle Hill reeled off her eighth win in her last nine starts — but she was tested all the way to the end.

After landing in fifth on the first turn behind early leader Felicityshagwell S (Åke Svanstedt), Manchego and driver Dexter Dunn began their attack up the backstretch and worked clear of arch rival Atlanta (Yannick Gingras) — who brushed from third to take charge in the second quarter — just beyond a :56 half. Once clear, the double millionaire threw down a :27 third sectional, but couldn't quite shake free from the looming presence of Atlanta.

With a furlong to go, Dunn implored Manchego for her best while Atlanta chased stoutly from the pocket. The two hit the line together in a finish that commentator Ken Warkentin declared "too close to call," but Manchego prevailed by a scant nose. Atlanta's :26.4 closing kick proved just insufficient, and Kenziesky Hanover (Corey Callahan) gained mildly into a no-match third, 3-3/4 lengths in arrears.

"He had to move her when he did," said Nancy Takter of 29-time winner Manchego's mid-race push to the fore. And as for the tissue-thin margin that separated the tough trotting tandem at the finish, "I thought Manchego held on. She’s tough to pass."

"It's going to be an interesting season with these two mares," Takter concluded.

A quintet of $25,000 first-round New Jersey Sire Stakes events filled out the undercard on the 18-race program. Dubai Princess ($31.40, Gingras, 1:52) and Spoiled Princess ($4.00, Dunn, 1:53.4) captured their respective divisions for three-year-old trotting fillies, Odds On Sarasota ($5.00, Tim Tetrick, 1:53.1) wired 10 foes in the lone three-year-old filly pace, Jula Trix Treasure ($19.40, Svanstedt, 1:54) lifted off cover to win the three-year-old colt trot, and Rock Me Hard ($4.80, Tetrick, 1:51.4) kicked home in :25.4 for a decisive 3-3/4-length win in the sophomore colt pacing division.

Tim Tetrick had the hot hand among drivers with six wins on the card, while Dunn had three. David Miller and Gingras scored doubles as well.

No doubt helped by an additional five races on the program, carded in an effort to get some horses raced who have been idle during the coronavirus shutdown, all-source wagering totalled $3,481,817 for the 18 races, a track and industry 2020 best.

Racing resumes at The Meadowlands on Saturday (June 20) with another 18-race program that gets underway at 6 p.m., 18 minutes after the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes.

(with files from The Meadowlands)

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