She's A Maneater, Bigdaddykool to make seasonal debut
THE rivalry between the two best horses, and most powerful barns at Caymanas Park continues Saturday with Horse of the Year, SHE'S A MANEATER, and BIGDADDYKOOL making their seasonal debuts in the 10-furlong Legal Light Trophy.
The Legal Light Trophy will set the tone for what should be another mega battle between 17-time champion Wayne DaCosta, who literally used SHE'S A MANEATER last year to ensure Nunes remained a maiden in his relentless hunt for a trainers' title.
Nunes, however, for the first time in years, has left the gate winging, holding a $1.23m advantage over DaCosta after the Guineas weekend, the official start of the classic season.
However, DaCosta's arsenal has been weakened, considering this time last year he was sitting pretty on the back of a Guineas double with FEARLESS SAMURAI and SHE'S A MANEATER, who went on to end the season unbeaten with nine wins, including the Superstakes and Diamond Mile over Nunes' BIGDADDYKOOL.
Nunes is dying to put one over SHE'S A MANEATER. Forget that his SOTOMAYOR had beaten her in the Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes. That didn't help his cause one bit in 2016. It is the unstoppable force that she has become since that must have him turning in his sleep, figuring how to beat her and topple DaCosta from the pinnacle he has held for 14 consecutive years.
That answer could lie in the handicaps. In both the Superstakes and Diamond Mile, SHE'S A MANEATER had the clear advantage in weight-for-age races. Having turned four and contesting a handicap for the first time, she now sits level with the five-year-old gelding, sharing topweight 126lb.
Even if she had carried 126lb in the Diamond Mile, BIGDADDYKOOL could not have touched SHE'S A MANEATER, who made 118lb seem 100lb lighter in clocking 1:36.4, the fastest mile since her stablemate, SEEKING MY DREAM, twice won the event in 1:36.2.
The yardstick race for BIGDADDYKOOL must be the Superstakes in which he allowed SHE'S A MANEATER 10lb and was as game as ever inside the last furlong, getting within a little over a length of the filly, who went on to win by two.
A 10lb swing at 10 furlongs, BIGDADDYKOOL's backyard is a mighty ask but SHE'S A MANEATER is such a pro that she must be given the benefit of the doubt, especially with her being in what should be the peak year of a racehorse, age four to four-and-a-half.
SHE'S A MANEATER is most likely to improve whereas BIGDADDYKOOL, at five, would have peaked last year and will have to again run down the filly, who has been looking every bit a monster at exercise.
Nunes has dug into his bag of tricks, coming up with blinkers, which he hopes will keep BIGDADDYKOOL more attentive than the cheek pieces, which he has discarded. He has been training the gelding in the equipment every morning and must be happy with the results to have made the change.
The top two aside, Robert Pearson's WILL IN CHARGE, who used 109 and 110lb to beat topweight BIGDADDYKOOL in consecutive 10-furlong races last August and September, has trained really well for his return.
Sitting level in the Superstakes and Diamond Mile, WILL IN CHARGE was outclassed but finished close to BIGDADDYKOOL, after picking up 17 and 16lb, respectively. He had no chance against BIGDADDYKOOL in the Harry Jackson at 12 furlongs on Boxing Day but should run really well with 119lb, getting seven pounds from the two stars.
Being a handicap, the fly on the wall cannot be overlooked, HOUDINI'S MAGIC, BIGDADDYKOOL's stablemate, who will run with approximately 111lb, that's 15lb lighter than the top two. Receiving 12lb from BIGDADDYKOOL in December's Harry Jackson, HOUDINI'S MAGIC kept his stablemate honest for the entire 12 furlongs.