In most years, top-level turf racing unfolds in the United States overshadowed by the inevitable presence of Europeans eager to invade and conquer in the fall.
This year might be different. The combination of an unusually deep and talented group of older American turf males and the presence of the Breeders’ Cup on the typically firm turf of Del Mar has brought a new wave of excitement to the division.
A prime example of that figures to be on display June 5 when the $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan Stakes (G1T) will offer a race that can hold its own against any of the other six grade 1 stakes on the Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard. A field of 10 was drawn June 1 for the 1 1/4-mile inner turf test at Belmont Park that features a rematch of two exciting renewals of recent grade 1 turf stakes.
On May 1, the battle was between Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending , who finished in a dead-heat for the victory in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1T) on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.
“We had some down years recently for turfers, but this looks like a strong group,” said Chad Brown, who will send four starters in search of a record seventh Manhattan win.
The Manhattan was captured by Brown’s Bricks and Mortar in 2019 en route to Horse of the Year honors, but that marked the first time since the launch of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984 that a horse won the Turf and the Manhattan in the same year. Given the caliber of Saturday’s field, an encore of that 2019 feat would not be shocking.
“There seems to be a good balance in the division,” said Jack Sisterson who trains Calumet Farm homebred Channel Cat. “There’s no Bricks and Mortar or a 3-5 shot in this field. Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending are the first two logical betting choices and the rest seem to be evenly matched. It will be a fun race to watch.”
Colonel Liam and Domestic Liam put on a highly memorable show in the Turf Classic. Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam, winner of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1T) in January, forged to a narrow and hard-fought lead near the wire when Domestic Spending came flying into the picture at the end and the photo finish camera could not separate them.
It was the fourth straight win for the Liam’s Map 4-year-old and sixth in eight career starts.
“He’s doing super lately. It’s a really strong group of horses, but I think the mile-and-a-quarter will be fine for him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Klaravich Stable’s Domestic Spending is in the midst of a three-race winning streak, after taking the Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes and Hollywood Derby (G1T) in his final two starts as a 3-year-old in 2020 before opening his 4-year-old season in the Turf Classic. In that1 1/8-mile test, the gelded son of Kingman closed with a rush from eighth to finish on even terms with Colonel Liam. Given Saturday’s longer distance, the added ground should bode well for his chances in the Manhattan.
“The extra distance will help him,” said Brown, who also will send out Rockemperor , Tribhuvan , and Master Piece . “He’s already won at a mile-and-three-sixteenths (in the Saratoga Derby). He came out of the Turf Classic as the division leader with Colonel Liam and he’s done well since then.”
Channel Cat and Gufo staged a thriller of their own in the May 8 Man o’War when Channel Cat held off a furious late rally by Gufo to prevail by a nose in the 1 3/8-mile stakes.
“We slowed his works down and extended his gallops and Channel Cat seems to have come around and blossomed,” Sisterson said about the son of English Channel who had lost nine straight races before the Man o’War. “We are going into the Manhattan in great shape.
Gufo has endured more than his fair share of tough beats. Otter Bend Stables’ late-running son of Declaration of War was also third by a neck in the Hollywood Derby and was second by a head to Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby.
Belmont Park, Saturday, June 05, 2021, Race 10
- Grade I
- 1 1/4m
- Inner turf
- 4 yo’s & up
- 5:38 PM (local)