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Manchego, Phaetosive In 'Oaks' Elims

Published: July 28, 2018 9:20 pm ET

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Manchego strolled to the lead at odds of 1-9 and trotted home in hand to a 1:51.1 mile on Saturday, July 28 at the Meadowlands to win the first of two Hambletonian Oaks eliminations.

Driver Yannick Gingras positioned the Jimmy Takter trainee third as Courtney Hanover posted a :26.4 opening quarter ahead of Bills Lady, who vacated the pocket after losing stride heading to the backstretch.

Unchallenged through a :55.2 half, Manchego continued on the lead around the final turn while Hey Blondie led cover from first over, carrying Lily Stride second over and Seviyorum third over. By three-quarters in 1:24.1, Manchego quickly expanded her margin ahead of Courtney Hanover, who jumped at the head of the stretch. Lily Stride kicked off cover to take second from Hey Blondie while What A Knockout, riding the rail, held fourth from Seviyorum rallying through the centre of the track.

Winning her fourth race in six starts this season and her 16th in 18 overall, Manchego, a filly by Muscle Hill from the Cantab Hall mare Secret Magic, competes for owners Black Horse Racing, John Fielding and Herb Liverman and has earned $1,022,620 career. She paid $2.20 to win.

“I don’t think [she’s ever been better],” Jimmy Takter said. “It was a little upsetting to lose the last start [in the Del Miller] and get such a nice record, but she did the dirty work. She went :54.3 [to the half] with a :27.1 second quarter and that kind of hurt her a little bit in the stretch, and maybe Yannick [Gingras] underestimated [Plunge Blue Chip] a little bit too. But I’m happy where we are right now.”

With Atlanta taking a shot at the Hambletonian, Takter said of his decision to race Manchego in the "Oaks" that “fillies go two heats and it’s a little bit too tough, especially for Manchego because she is not a very big filly. Going two heats would be risking the future of her racing career.”

Phaetosive glided past world-champion Plunge Blue Chip heading to the top of the stretch and drew clear of competition in route to a 1:51 mile in the second Oaks elimination.

Live Laugh Love set a :28 opening quarter on the lead as Plunge Blue Chip parked before clearing the front to the backstretch. Past the half in :56.1, Plunge Blue Chip led into the far turn while Phaetosive tipped first over and drew into contention nearing the three-quarters and the two match strides by three-quarters in 1:24.2.

Trainer-driver Trond Smedshammer powered to the top with Phaetosive straightening away while Live Laugh Love overtook Plunge Blue Chip chasing at the rail to take second. Blonde Magic and Nixie Volo closing towards the centre completed the top five.

A filly by Explosive Matter from the Angus Hall mare Phaeton, Phaetosive won her third race in four starts this season and her seventh in 11 overall, earning $377,358 for owners Purple Haze Racing LLC. She returned $3.60 to win.

"She's been good her whole life," Smedshammer said after the race. "She just keeps impressing me.

When asked if she's ever been better if she is currently, Smedshammer replied "No."

Manchego, beating Phaetosive last year in the Merrie Annabelle on Hambletonian Day among other occasions, will meet for the first time this season in the Oaks Final.

"[Manchego] got the best of me last year every time they hooked up, but I think it's a little closer this year," Smedshammer said.

Alongside the Oaks contests, Hambletonian prospects competed in two $46,600 divisions of the Reynolds Trot.

Mets Hall popped pocket late to pass late tempo-setter Hockey Hanover to win the first division in 1:53. The 3-5 favourite set the pace for the first half as he lead through splits of :28 and :57.3.

Hockey Hanover pulled first over moving to the far turn and brushed to a two-length lead by three-quarters in 1:25.4. Mets Hall pounced from his seat in the stretch and took the front as Fashionwoodchopper tracked and rallied late, finishing a neck back in second. Hockey Hanover held third.

Hambletonian eligible along with runner-up Fashionwoodchopper, Mets Hall won his first race in three starts this season and his sixth in 14 overall, earning $311,908. Trained by Julie Miller for owners Stroy Inc. and Andy Miller Stables, Andy Miller sat behind the son of Cantab Hall, from the Mutineer mare Mets Inn, and paid $3.40 to win.

Beal Champion and Hambletonian-hopeful Crystal Fashion cruised off cover to win the second division in 1:52.4 in front of tempo-setting Hat Trick Habit.

Sitting the pocket to Hill Street through a :27.4 opening quarter, Hat Trick Habit circled to the lead before the half, trotting in front through a :56.4 split while Rich And Miserable flushed first over from third into the turn. Matching strides with the leader through three-quarters in 1:24.4, Rich And Miserable retreated into the stretch leaving Hat Trick Habit with an open lead.

Crystal Fashion, from third over, angled wide and recouped ground to catch the loose leader in the final sixteenth. For A Dreamer, finding room late, edged off the rail and split horses late to take third.

Owned by Fashion Farms LLC, Crystal Fashion won his fifth race in eight starts this season and his ninth in 20 overall, earning $523,252. Jim Campbell trains the son of Cantab Hall, from the Tagliabue mare Window Willow, and Tim Tetrick sat behind the $2.60 winner.

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