Armando R hunts third straight stakes win in Manfuso

Ronald Cuneo’s Armando R can put an exclamation point on what has been an outstanding fall meet for trainer Damon Dilodovico with a third consecutive stakes victory in the $100,000 Robert T. Manfuso Monday, Dec. 26 at Laurel Park.

The second running of the Manfuso for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles is among six $100,000 stakes on an 11-race Christmastide Day program that marks the return of live racing following a week-long holiday break. First race post time is 11:25 a.m.

The Laurel-based Dilodovico ranks fourth with 18 wins from 61 starters during the calendar year-ending stand that began Sept. 30, a 30 percent success rate that is the best among leading trainers. Armando R owns two of those victories, in the off-the-turf Oct. 1 Japan Turf Cup and Nov. 26 Richard W. Small – the Blame gelding’s first stakes wins.

“It’s been a great meet. We’ve been very fortunate,” Dilodovico said. “This old guy, he doesn’t demand a lot. He just goes out there and does his job every day.”

Dilodovico claimed now 6-year-old Armando R for $16,000 out of a win last fall at Laurel, and he has won four of nine starts in 2022 including three of his last four, banking more than $213,000.

Armando R is five-for-10 lifetime at Laurel, having won three straight over his home track. He went to the sidelines following a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming win June 12, returning to be fourth in a similar spot going one mile Sept. 3 at Delaware Park.

With that race under his belt, Armando R stepped up in the Japan Turf Cup – rained off the grass and run at 1 ¼ miles – to nail Beacon Hill near the wire and win by a neck. He followed up with a near carbon copy effort in the 1 1/8-mile Small, rolling past Grade 3 winner Cordmaker and Oct. 22 Maryland Million Classic winner Ournationonparade to win by a half-length.

“He’s doing really well. Ever since before the Delaware race …we’ve been very fortunate we’ve been able to keep him going pretty steady,” Dilodovico said. “He got a little sick coming out of the June race. That first race back at Delaware, not that it was a poor race but it was just not his best race on the season. No complaints with this guy. He’s been very solid for us.”

Armando R drew Post 5 in an overflow field of 12 with regular rider Horacio Karamanos aboard.

“I definitely think the longer the better for him,” Dilodovico said. “Even though it’s only a sixteenth of a mile [shorter than] his last race, we’re not nervous or concerned but we realize it might not be his best distance. If the race holds together it looks like there could be an abundance of pace, so that could help out.”

The race has drawn 12 entrants, with the field limited to 10. Other stakes winners entered include Maryland Million Classic champ Ournationonparade; Ridin With Biden, last-out winner of the Turkey Trot at Parx; Grade 3 winner Cordmaker, whose trainer Rodney Jenkins indicated he might not actually face the starter; and Eloquist, winner of the Discovery at Aqueduct in last.

A longtime owner and breeder and former owner of both Laurel and Pimlico Race Course who was instrumental in revitalizing Maryland racing, Robert T. Manfuso passed away in March 2020. Top-class runners bred and raised at Chanceland Farm with his life partner, trainer Katy Voss, include 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West, 2016 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Cathryn Sophia and Cordmaker.