Manila's handlers keep talking about giving last year's male grass champion another try on dirt, but there's no indication that they will ever follow through.
Manila was nominated to run in Sunday's 48th Hollywood Gold Cup, a 1-mile, $500,000 stake on dirt, but early this week trainer LeRoy Jolley notified the track that the 4-year-old colt wouldn't be coming.
"He's not a great shipper," said Jolley, who then outlined a three-race schedule--all on the grass--for Manila.
Manila's next race will be the $100,000 United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City July 15. Manila won the United Nations last year, carrying only 114 pounds because he was a 3-year-old racing older horses, and broke the course record for 1 3/16 miles.
After Atlantic City, Jolley plans to run Manila Aug. 16 in the $100,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, which should set him up for the Arlington-Budweiser Million Sept. 6.
The idea of shipping Manila to Paris for the Arc de Triomphe in October has been discarded.
"To run in the Arc, you'd have to give up July and August over here in order to prepare the horse," Jolley said. "That would mean passing up at least four American races that are worth a lot of money."
The way Manila has run on grass, it's a wonder that Jolley and the horse's owners, Mike Shannon and Will Farish, are considering dirt at all.
Manila's first four races were on dirt. He was seventh, second and second before he won, the seventh being the only time in a 15-race career that he has finished anything but first or second.
In his first start on grass, at Keeneland in April of 1986, Manila won by more than seven lengths, and he has stayed on the turf ever since. His current eight-race winning streak started in the Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park a year ago.
The thought persists, however, that Manila will be running on dirt before the year is over.
"At the end of the year, the dirt horses may be wearing out," Jolley said. "That might be the time to make the switch."
Although Manila won the Breeders' Cup Turf race last November at Santa Anita, extending his winning streak to six races, he was outvoted by the dirt-running Lady's Secret for horse of the year. Jolley might figure that winning the Breeders' Cup Classic, on dirt, would cinch the vote this time.
Ferdinand is the opposite of Manila. Even when he was winning the Kentucky Derby last year, his trainer, Charlie Whittingham, was looking forward to moving him to the grass.
When Ferdinand was introduced to grass, this year, he ran fourth in the San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita and was third in the John Henry Handicap at Hollywood Park. Whittingham was disappointed, but remembered what he's always said about dirt horses going to grass: "You never know whether they'll handle it until they try it."
Now, Ferdinand is back on dirt, and almost by default he'll be the top-weighted starter in Sunday's Gold Cup with 124 pounds.
Ferdinand hasn't won a race this year. Asked about the weights, Whittingham said: "They had to make somebody the high weight."
Others expected to start are Judge Angelucci, another Whittingham trainee, at 118 pounds; Tasso, 115; Red Attack, Schiller and Slyly Gifted, 114 apiece, and Captain Vigors and Fobby Forbes, each at 112. Whittingham, who has won the Gold Cup a record seven times, also said there is a chance that Thrill Show, under 120 pounds, might give him a third starter in the race.
Laffit Pincay and Bill Shoemaker have each won the Gold Cup seven times, but only Shoemaker will have a chance to add to his total Sunday.
Shoemaker is riding Ferdinand. Pincay, who could have had the mount on Tasso, instead will be in Minnesota, riding Cryptoclearance in the $300,000 St. Paul Derby at Canterbury Downs.
Pincay, who has never ridden at Canterbury, rode Cryptoclearance for the first time when they finished second, 14 lengths behind Bet Twice, in the Belmont Stakes.
Among the eight horses likely to start in the St. Paul Derby are Lost Code, Blanco and Omar Khayyam, who is trying to become the second straight New York-bred horse to win the race. Cheapskate was the winner a year ago.
The most prolific horse the late Fred Astaire owned was Triplicate, who as a 5-year-old won the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita and the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1946.
Astaire, who died Monday at 88, reportedly bought Triplicate for $6,000 when the horse was a 3-year-old. A few years ago, Mrs. John Hay Whitney of Greentree Stud named a colt after Astaire. The four-legged Fred Astaire had been sired by a horse named for another dancer, Nijinsky II.
Trainer Neil Drysdale has Blanco running Sunday in the St. Paul Derby, but the best 3-year-old in his barn could be W. D. Jacks, who beat older horses by 4 1/2 lengths Sunday at Hollywood Park, running a mile in a swift 1:33 4/5.
W. D. Jacks, a $135,000 Matsadoon-Star Empress yearling, has won all four starts this year, after running fifth at Del Mar in his only start as a 2-year-old.
W. D. Jacks was given time off to mature after the Del Mar race.