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Horse Racing : Owner May Not Keep Manila on Safe Ground

September 10, 1987|Bill Christine

The guess here is that Mike Shannon, the principal owner of Manila, will recommend to trainer LeRoy Jolley that they send the 4-year-old colt to Paris in an attempt to have the first American-based horse to win the Arc de Triomphe, a race that was first run in 1920.

But if Manila goes, it will be with Jolley kicking and screaming all the way across the Atlantic. Jolley is a realist and Shannon is a romantic. The hard-boiled trainer is likely to hold the opinion that it is too late to shift gears for the Oct. 4 Arc de Triomphe, especially when another win in the Breeders' Cup should secure the Horse of the Year title that escaped Manila in 1986.

Shannon, a Lexington, Ky., bloodstock agent,was still dreaming after Manila's turf record went to 11 wins in 14 starts after he won the Budweiser Arlington Million last Sunday.

"How often in life does a man have the chance to do what we might do with this horse?" Shannon said. "How often does a man ever even get a horse who might be the first American to win the Arc? It's probably not going to happen again."

When the 40-year-old Shannon was an undergraduate at Texas Tech, he had a roommate named Wendell.

"The name doesn't make any difference," Shannon said. "He was a walk-on football player who was trying to make the team as a linebacker.

"The third day of practice, he came back to the room beat to a pulp. I asked him why he was putting up with all this punishment.

"He said, 'I quit the team today. But now I know. I know that I can't make it. If I hadn't tried it, I would have gone through life never knowing, but now at least I know that I gave it my best shot.' "

Manila was the class of international grass racing last year. He beat Europe's best, Dancing Brave, in the Breeders' Cup, and for the second straight year he's the American nonpareil on grass.

Manila's handlers could play it safe, keep him on grass in the United States, win the Breeders' Cup again, and probably have him voted as Horse of the Year. Also, they could gamble on a limited basis and run him in the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup, at 1 1/2 miles on dirt at Belmont Park, as an option to the Arc.

If he ran in the Arc and floundered, Manila would lose little stature. Win or lose, the Yanks would be hailed for their pluck. But a loss in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would make Manila less than a complete horse in the eyes of the Eclipse Awards voters.

At least one trainer feels that it would be a mistake to run Manila in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Charlie Whittingham, who couldn't beat Manila in either the Breeders' Cup or the Million, says that Belmont's dirt surface will be hard on Manila's legs, which have come under question this year.

But there are negatives about the Arc, too. An American horse going over for the 1 1/2-mile Arc has all the disadvantages: Running clockwise, the opposite of the United States; going up and down the hills of the Longchamps course; being forced to use the smooth French racing plates; and usually running on a soft course better suited for the European horses.

Mike Shannon knows the pitfalls and before Manila won the Million, he discounted them all. Like his old roommate, Wendell, the frustrated linebacker, Shannon may have decided that he won't know until he has tried.

There may be something more to the Jolley-Jacinto Vasquez rift than just exercising horses in the mornings. Jolley replaced Vasquez with Angel Cordero on Manila in the Million, Vasquez saying that he was punished because he wouldn't work Jolley horses that were going to be ridden by Jose Santos and other jockeys in races.

On Saturday, with Jolley's crack 2-year-old, Tsarbaby, running at Belmont Park, Vasquez went to Chicago to ride Tejano to victory in the Arlington Washington Futurity.

Santos rode Tsarbaby to his second straight victory. Vasquez, however, can hardly be blamed for skipping a $28,000 race to ride in the $441,800 Futurity, any more than he could be blamed for not exercising horses he's not being allowed to race.

Gary Stevens has been suspended five days by the Del Mar stewards, starting Saturday, for the disqualification of his filly, Top Corsage, in the June Darling Stakes Monday.

Because of a California rule that permits suspended jockeys to ride in designated races, Stevens will still be able to compete in Sunday's Ramona Handicap and next Wednesday's closing-day Del Mar Futurity. Stevens will be riding Auspiciante, the defending champion, in the Ramona.

Triptych's handlers made the right decision by skipping the Arlington Million and staying in Ireland to run in the Phoenix Champion Stakes.

Triptych won the Phoenix and about $300,000. For a shot at $600,000 in the Million, she would have had Manila to contend with, and it would have cost $140,000 to fly her to Chicago and back.

Triptych, third in the Arc last year, will be favored along with Reference Point this time. International observers feel that Manila will go off the third choice if he runs.

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