'Buck' draws a crowd after first stakes win Extended family cheers victory by head in 'Wolf'

January 04, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

And a good time was had by all.

The nine partners of Circled Horse Racing Stable, accompanied by smiling relatives and friends, celebrated yesterday in the winner's circle at Laurel Park after Manage a Buck defeated two of Maryland's top sprinters in the Northern Wolf Stakes, a six-furlong sprint worth $53,400.

"We're a fraternity of people who get together, watch the races and share the fun of it," said Brian Dark, a computer specialist from Baltimore who formed the partnership.

"We started with one horse, and now we have nine," said Stuart Haman, a partner who manages a medical group and photographs racehorses. "For people who don't want to invest a fortune, this is a great way to get involved in the sport."

Hugging, kissing and acting as if the new year still needed ringing in, the partners reveled in their first stakes victory -- and the first stakes win in 27 starts for Manage a Buck.

The group claimed Manage a Buck for $18,500 in October 1996, and its trainer, Ben Feliciano Jr., placed him in allowance races and minor stakes, avoiding the top stakes horses. But after an impressive second to the red-hot Purple Passion three weeks ago in the Bowie Stakes, Feliciano decided to test the 5-year-old gelding yesterday against Romano Gucci and Original Gray.

Romano Gucci, a 5-year-old gelding, won the Grade II Gotham Stakes two years ago at Aqueduct. Original Gray, a 4-year-old gray colt, had raced only three times, but won each convincingly. Bettors anointed Original Gray the even-money favorite. Manage Buck was 2-1, and Romano Gucci 5-2.

Original Gray led Romano Gucci by a length at the turn, and Romano Gucci led Manage a Buck by a length. But as they straightened for home, Manage a Buck squirted along the rail. His jockey, Mario Pino, had seen a sliver of an opening.

Mark Johnston, astride Original Gray, glanced over his right shoulder, looking for the nation's winningest rider, Edgar Prado, aboard Romano Gucci. But Romano Gucci wasn't threatening on the right; Manage a Buck was on the left.

Manage a Buck and Original Gray dueled side-by-side. Manage a Buck pulled ahead, but Original Gray fought back. As they crossed under the wire in a blur, Manage a Buck prevailed by a head.

"Both horses really fought down the stretch," said Pino, who gained the mount that morning only because Johnston chose to ride Original Gray. "But this horse has a long head on him. He vTC kept sticking it out there, and I was just hoping he'd have it out there at the wire."

Johnston said he should have stuck closer to the rail, forcing Pino and Manage a Buck wide.

"That was an excellent ride by Mario," said Feliciano, Manage a Buck's trainer. "I wasn't sure he could beat these other horses. This was pretty tough today."

But fun for the winners -- all of them.

Prado pays for appeal

Prado dropped his appeal of his five-day suspension for careless riding Dec. 17, and the stewards promptly suspended him two more days. The stewards decided that Prado had appealed only to gain a stay and continue riding through the end of 1997. Prado won 536 races last year, more than any other jockey in North America.

Asked what Prado would do during the suspension (Jan. 7-15), his agent, Steve Rushing, replied: "He's going to take his family to Disney World."

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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