The Manhattan (Grade 1)- $1,000.000 Purse
BEL- For Four Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Quarter on the Inner Turf
June 10, 2017
The field for the 14th running of The Manhattan is a star studded lineup of dominant turf horses, making it just another example of how exciting the undercard is on BEL day here in New York. We will be treated by the presence of the BC Turf Champion, Admirals Aces as he takes on both the top two finishers from the Grade 1 Man O War, and then the top two finishers from the Grade 1 Woodford Turf Classic, two top events in May that are typically an “either/or” decision for the trainers on where to run them that month. The runner up from the BC Turf is also here, and there are others in this field who have done great things and would love to pick up their signature result here in the way that Bombastic Kathology did for Oval Express Farms last year when the field led him jump out to an early lead and could never reel him in. This should be an exciting race as well. Let’s look at this full lineup of fourteen for this race!
#1- Chrystal Pip (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- Starting on the rail, we begin win the 2016 winner of the Man O War, who has had a longstanding career that has lasted 27 races. In them, he has visited the winner’s circle eight times, and has been in the money for 19 of them. When he won the Man O War, it was his first race for Mb Stables, who picked him up from Chili King Stables in private sales. The success did not end there, as right after that he showed his impressive surface versatility and won the Grade 1 Gold Cup. Not long after came a dead heat win in the Hirsch Turf Classic, right here at BEL. While he has not won since then, he is still running very well, and would show that at this race track for the 2017 running of the Man O War, where he finished second. Should contend again. It will be R J Albarado’s first time riding him.
#2- Admirals Aces (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- The trainer did with Admirals Aces what he did with Chrystal Pip last year: picked him up in private sales when he was at the top of his game. Admirals Aces was one of the better stories of 2016, going from being an underdog in the FL Derby and finishing well, followed by his development into a top turf horse. In the fall, he won the 2016 Hirsch Turf Classic in a dead heat with good ol’ Chrystal Pip. That sent him to the BC Turf, and it was there that a storybook season ended up as a success as he went on to win the race for Grimley. With Mb Stables, he has raced twice, the first being a rough debut before bouncing back and beating three others in the Grade 2 Elkhorn. He seems ready to run a big one here.
#3- Thats The Truth (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by J J Hernandez)- What is truthful about this four year old colt is that he does not have the resume as the others ones do, but that is only because this is such a strong race. He has been a consistent participant at the graded level and his recent attempts have been on the dirt which include the SA Handicap and the CT Classic. The finishes have not always been there, but a career best run at the Hals Hope (Grade 3) shows that he does have some hope. He has to duplicate that run, though.
#4- Cju (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by E Maldonado)- This five year old autogen loves to go long, and he showed that in the BC Turf, where he ran second to Admirals Aces. To get there, Cju consistently finished in the money, doing so eight of nine times, even if they were not all victories. His biggest win of 2016 was the Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes in August, though if that might not quite impress you, note the he always seems to be within a length in the races he does not win. We are completely throwing out the run on dirt at the SA Handicap, where all he accomplished was to convince the trainer to get him back on the grass. He’s had a nice six-week rest period, and should be ready to run well.
#5- Sonic (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- A steady horse over his career with five wins in 18 career starts, but has not really been able to take the next step into graded competition. There is a graded win on his resume, but it was a smaller $100.000 Grade 3 (The River City Handicap). To me, he seems to a second tier stakes horse, unless he improves. He will always be good in the ungraded events, or the small graded events, but when you look at his last three graded runs, even the Grade 3 Fort Mercy run here last month, he just seems to be a tab behind the others. Against the caliber of opposition he meets here, that’s not going to get it done unless he is at his best.
#6- Lunar Blaze (John Henry, ridden by J R Velazquez)- If the race were a year ago, he’d be the favorite. Lunar Blaze is a well known commodity who caught the attention of many in the virtual racing world with a nearly unstoppable summer as a three year old. It started with the Grade 2 Stephens, on BEL day last year, and carried into the prestigious BEL Derby Invitational (from post 14) right here in July, then he captured the Arlington Million in August. His trainer for those races, Pan Farms, then cashed out to the tune of $1,250.000 in selling him to Australia Wide, but he didn’t seem to last there very long. After a sixth place run in the BC Turf, Lunar Blaze was sold to John Henry for less then half of what he had previously sold for. He has not yet won for John Henry, but has been agonizingly close with three second place runs, including the Woodford Turf Classic last month. Pencil him in as one of the top threats here.
#7- Dogs Dragon (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by J Talamo)- This five year old Dogs Bachelor Party gelding has been hot of late, winning three out of four in a stretch that immediately followed his sixth place result in the BC Mile. After that race, the trainer looked to extend him longer and found immediate success out west at the HOL Turf Classic. He did not stop there, and his last two runs have been outstanding. The most recent of which is the Grade 1 Man O War stakes. It was a surprisingly small field for a $400.000 race that bears a legendary name associated with it, but the 99 SRF recorded on the soft turf that day will grab anyone’s attention. He’ll contend here, though I am inclined to look elsewhere. Rest assured, that’s really only a gut feeling.
#8- Spotted Cat (Blushing Meadows, ridden by D Moran)- Here is another long time great, who’s looking to join a few of the others here at over $2,000.000 in career earnings, who seems to be in excellent form right now. It’s just another reason why this field is so stacked. After the 11-furlong Grade 2 Diarmida proved to be not long enough for him, he recovered well with a pair of graded wins, first coming in the Grade 2 Pan American, and then the Grade 1 Woodford Turf Classic last month. Interesting to note that in the Woodford, Spotted Cat caught the pace setting Lunar Blaze late at a shorter distance. If tactics are the same (and you know they never are, but, hey, what the heck), then that seems promising for Spotted Cat. He seems to get overlooked at the betting window a little too much based on his talent. Don’t let that happen again!
#9- Just Ordinary (Establo Pichon, ridden by J L Ortiz)- This one does not have the name recognition as the others in the field do, and perhaps given his name, that’s only appropriate. However, Just Ordinary has proven himself to be an up and coming threat in a still lightly raced career. First, if you ever want to watch a complete blowout in an HRP race, fire up his MNR maiden win just for fun. That was running for Mb Stables, and Establo Pichon picked him up at a nice $21.990 auction value. Then finally, after knocking on the door of a big win, he finally was able to do so in the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano at SA six weeks ago. It’s the first time he has run against this type of field, but he’s earned it and a worthy challenger.
#10- Spanish Showboat (Mb Stables, ridden by J Leparoux)- Just when you were looking at the horses in this field and thinking this race could not be any better, it’s like bam! Spanish Showboat is here, too! This has been one of favorite turf runners over the years, and the seven year old gelding has now accumulated 41 career starts, with 12 wins and career earnings that are approaching $3,000.000. I can go through the accolades, which include five wins, taking both the Woodford and the Man O War in his career, but the most relevant aspect for this race is that he is simply not slowing down. His last race, the Grade 3 Fort Mercy right here at BEL, where he was edged by Carnival O Wow (we’ll be getting to him) did earn him a career high (and that’s saying something) 103 SRF. He is still a threat.
#11- Valar Morghulis (Gdp Inc, ridden by J J Castellano)- It has been about a year now since Valar Morghulis has regularly been running on the turf, and the results are very good. Putting him in the Grade 3 Singspiel as a turf debut was a gamble, but it paid off for Gdp Inc when he finished second in that race. Based on that performance, it just seemed like a matter of time before we could call him a graded stake champion. Eleven months later, he’s still looking for that, but is consistently in the money time and time again. That’s good for the trainer, as it gets him a check, but I would need to see a win in one of those races before I could put him in my picks in a race that is a who’s who of distance turf racing.
#12- Inspector Jacque (Jader Stable, ridden by F Pennington)- The work that Kopites did with this gelding in the fall of last year was very impressive, but ultimately after a good run, and a win in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile, Kopites sold him off to one of the game’s newer trainers. Jader Stable has been winning at a nice 20% clip, and has a Grade 2 win in the bag, but so far they have not quite gotten the results from their $250.000 private sales investment with Inspector Jacque. They’ll keep plugging away at it, and we know the potential is there. That said, a recent public work may be a concerning sign, and hopefully it was just the case of testing something.
#13- Mean Street (Nakamura Stables, ridden by L Saez)- For a successful seven year old, Mean Street has been lightly and patiently raced over the last couple years to ensure that he remains in top form. He’s always been good, as you can go back to 2014 and see that he ran in the BC Turf there, against fellow oldie Spanish Showboat. He has not been back, so it would be an interesting story to see him return there this year, and based on his form why not. In 2016, he won four of six, including the Grade 2 Elkhorn at KEE and Grade 2 BG Stakes at SAR. He has not been raced much yet this year, but was good looking in his last outing, a second place run in a tight photo at the Grade 2 Diarmida, a race he won in 2016. The last two races saw him lose the lasix and shadow roll, and they are slated to come back for this race.
#14- Carnival O Wow (Oval Express Farms, ridden by D E Centeno)- If I didn’t know the trainer’s name in advance, I would still say that Carnival O Wow is the most reminiscent of last year’s winner, Bombastic Kathology. Bombastic Kathology was an inconsistent racehorse for Oval Express Farms, but when he was on top of his game, he was very hard to beat. Last year, the field made the mistake of letting Bombastic Kathology get away, perhaps not trusting him, and Oval Express got the win! To make it two in a row, the trainer is unlucky with the post position draw, but has the horse to do it. Carnival O Wow is young still, but has turned in a couple of monster performances, one last year in the Seabiscuit (Grade 2) at SA, and then in his last start in the Grade 3 Fort Mercy, a win that earned a 104 SRF. But between them, and when he doesn’t win, he seems to finish off the board entirely, though his cold spells are not at the level as Bombastic Kathology’s were. It’s a good racehorse, and not at all likely to jump out to the lead, but if he’s on, he is a threat.