Nunes, DaCosta at it again
HAVING gone full blast at the weekend, sending out a combined 50 runners, 27 and 23 apiece, leading trainer Anthony Nunes and defending champion Wayne DaCosta go at it again, three runners from either barn, starting the day with $5,554,865 separating them atop the stakes standings.
Whereas DaCosta's LOVELY DAY looks set to make it two-in-a-row in the opening event after recently winning three runs off a two-year lay-up, Nunes' MAMACITA's chances hinge on how sharp Spencer Chung's EXTRUDER returns in the sixth race, sidelined for the last eight months but looking OK at exercise.
The battleground is in the open-allowance sprint at five and a half furlongs in which DaCosta has MR UNIVERSE and back-to-back winner, LADY BLUE, going up against Nunes' improving filly, EXHILARATE, who scorched the exercise track in 1:05.3 for the distance last Friday morning, the final five furlongs in 58.4.
Having won an open allowance in July while MR UNIVERSE was off on a nine-month lay-up, from as far back as last December, EXHILARATE has been penalised with 126lb, which Nunes has tried to alleviate by slipping seven pounds with apprentice Daniel Satchell.
Never mind that MR UNIVERSE beat EXHILARATE by eight lengths, two runs off the lengthy break. Autopilot conditions apparently don't take into consideration the placings of the biggest graded stakes sprint of the year, the Caribbean Sprint, which MR UNIVERSE led to the last half-furlong with 126lb.
Returning rather quickly, a week later, two classes lower, in the overnight allowance Vassell Najair Memorial, MR UNIVERSE was backed down to 1-5 but didn't seem himself from the gate, surprisingly led for the first three furlongs by POLLY B. Though going two and a half lengths clear off the turn, he was mowed down by another lightweight, 8-1 outsider, MY SISTER.
DaCosta has flung MR UNIVERSE up in class, coming in at 112lb, of which Raddesh Roman will slip four, running with 108lb, possibly 110lb, one of the lightest imposts the five-year-old horse has carried in 24 previous starts, giving him at least a nine-pound advantage on EXHILARATE at his ideal distance.
EXHILARATE's only chance is to try running MR UNIVERSE off the lead, using her exercise form. However, that's easier said than done because he had twice clocked sub-1:06.0 times at exercise coming off his long break when prepping for the Caribbean Sprint.
DaCosta could very well complete the exacta with LADY BLUE, who has Omar Walker up, riding at 115lb, five pounds heavier than when she had sat off the pace and closed into third behind MY SISTER and MR UNIVERSE Najair Memorial.
Having won back-to-back five-furlong round races in 59.1, LADY BLUE could chase home her stablemate if EXHILARATE gets burnt on the lead trying to make all against MR UNIVERSE.