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Mandella's Bench Again Pulls Surprise

Horse racing: Trainer thought Siphon might have a chance, but stablemate Dare And Go gets the stunning victory.


DEL MAR, Calif. — Richard Mandella's bench continues to come up big.

The second- and third-stringers in one of the country's deepest stables are getting the job done in some rather significant races.

When Soul Of The Matter couldn't make the Hollywood Gold Cup because of a foot bruise, Siphon stepped up for the trainer and went gate-to-wire, scoring a 9-1 upset over Geri.

Nearly a month later, Talloires stunned his more highly regarded stablemate Sandpit in the Caesars Palace Turf Championship, depriving Sandpit of a hefty bonus.

On Saturday, it was Dare And Go's turn in the $1-million Pacific Classic, and his victory was the most startling of all.

An unlikely participant in the Grade I only a week ago, the 5-year-old Alydar horse collected the biggest win of his life and a place in history.

He derailed Cigar's win streak at 16, and it wasn't even close. The second longest shot in the field at more than 39-1, Dare And Go won by 3 1/2 lengths. It was clear with about of a quarter-mile to go that it was going to be this underdog's day.

Mandella first gave consideration to the Escondido Handicap, a grass event that was won by Dernier Empereur Friday, and the Harry Brubaker Handicap a week from today. But after conferring with the horse's owners, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Mandella decided Monday to run in the Pacific Classic.

With Luthier Fever almost certain to finish last--and he would have, had Tinners Way not been injured Saturday--Dare And Go was all but assured of a check.

But nobody could have expected a victory, not from a horse that had won only once in eight starts since winning the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita in February 1995.

"Realistically, I thought Siphon had the best chance to beat Cigar, but I thought Dare And Go had a legitimate chance to get a part of it," Mandella said. "But I didn't think Cigar would get beat, honestly."

Siphon definitely played a part in his stablemate's win. Jerry Bailey, who had chased Siphon home in the Gold Cup when aboard Geri, didn't want to let him get away Saturday.

That contributed to some fast fractions (45 4/5, 1:09 1/5 and 1:33 3/5) for the mile and set things up for Dare And Go, who relaxed well under Alex Solis.

"I was really happy with the way the race set up," said Solis, who couldn't contain his enthusiasm when he went past the wire. "I got myself a really good spot down on the rail and saved lots of ground. I was riding to save my position and it was working out great.

"At the three-eighths pole, I started to think I really had a shot. At the quarter pole, I asked him and he gave me a great kick. When I pulled up next to Cigar, I just kept on riding, riding, riding.

"When my horse pulled out about a length on him, I knew I was going to win it. It felt terrific, one of the best feelings of my life."

This was also one of the highlights for Mandella, but he wasn't about to place it ahead of his victories with Phone Chatter and Kotashaan in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Turf, respectively, in 1993.

"I can't say it's better than [those two wins], but this is as good as it can get," he said. "Anybody who's seen [Dare And Go] here in the last couple of weeks could see him bloom and get better and better every day."

Mandella could empathize with Bill Mott about the end of the streak. Although it never reached Cigar proportions, several years ago, Mandella had the top-notch sprinter Phone Trick win nine in a row before he lost in what turned out to be his final start.

"To me [this] only signifies how great that horse is," he said. "Maybe he didn't have his best day today, but I hope he can come back and be the star that he is. I'm just hoping I won't be there [with one of his horses].

"I could tell at the three-eighths pole that Cigar was going and hooking Siphon and it was becoming a serious battle and I thought it may take its toll on both of them.

"At that time, I looked back to see who looked like he had something to finish and I saw Dare And Go starting to gather his stride and move forward. I had a good feeling at the quarter pole and I when saw him go by [Cigar] so boldly, I really felt good."

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