Trainer Chad Brown will look to further bolster his impressive turf resume on Saturday at Belmont Park when he sends out three horses in the Grade 1, $ 1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan, a race he will attempt to win for the fourth consecutive year.
The Manhattan, run at 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf course at Belmont, will maintain its customary position as the prelude to the Grade 1, $ 1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, and will be part of an NBC telecast that starts at 5 p.m. ET.
Brown’s formidable trio is led by Beach Patrol, who will look to improve upon a recent string of second-place finishes dating back to last year’s Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont. The son of Lemon Drop Kid was purchased privately last year by James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners, and Head of Plains Partners and rewarded his new connections with a win in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park, as well as a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, before ending his sophomore campaign with runner-up performances in the Hill Prince and Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.
As a 4-year-old the bay colt returned better than ever, carving out an honest pace in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap before yielding late to his stablemate Almanaar, though Beach Patrol was ultimately disqualified and placed fourth. After a brief hiatus, the star-crossed Brown trainee returned a few months later to contest the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, but again had to settle for second behind fellow Manhattan entrant Divisidero after setting the pace.
“He’s a very consistent horse,” said Brown, who has won four of the past five editions of the Manhattan. “He ran well last time setting an easy pace on softer turf, but I do think he prefers firmer turf, which he should get on Saturday given the forecast. I’ll leave it up to the jockey but he should be forwardly placed again and he’s been training well.”
Beach Patrol was tabbed at 4-1 on the morning line and will be ridden by regular rider Florent Geroux.
The Brown-trained Wake Forest will look to rebound after finishing fifth, beaten 13 ¼ lengths on May 13 at Belmont in the Grade 1 Man o’ War, a race he won last year. Earlier this year, the son of British sire Sir Percy won the Grade 2, 1 ⅜-mile Mac Diarmida by a head on March 4 at Gulfstream.
“He caught very, very heavy ground [in the Man o’ War] and I think you can draw a line through it,” said Brown. “He’s come back and trained well, and like Beach Patrol he should appreciate the firmer ground on Saturday.”
Owned by Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners, and Bethlehem Stables LLC, Wake Forest will break from post 2 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. and is listed at 8-1 on the morning line.
Though he is the least accomplished of the three, Time Test made a favorable impression in his first start with Brown, just missing by a nose in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 6 at Belmont. The bay 5-year-old has raced predominantly in England, though he made one prior foray to America in 2015 when he finished a distant 10th in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, and is a multiple group stakes winner running overseas.
“He caught heavy ground and didn’t run quite as well as I thought he would [in the Fort Marcy],” said Brown. “He’s trained exceptionally well on firm ground and he hadn’t run in a long time, so I’m definitely expecting a better performance from him.”
The Juddmonte Farms color-bearer will enlist the services of jockey Javier Castellano, and the duo will depart from post 4. Time Test is 5-1 on the morning line.
Trained by Buff Bradley for Gunpowder Farms LLC, Divisdero is likely to prove the main danger to Brown’s triumvirate after taking his second straight Turf Classic a month ago. The 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy has made a steady progression to the top of the turf ranks after debuting a winner in February 2015 at Gulfstream Park, notching scores in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill and the Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont along the way. But despite multiple Grade 1 victories to his credit, Bradley believes Divisdero’s ascension is not over yet.
“This is his year; I’m expecting a lot from his next [few] starts,” said the Kentucky-based trainer. “As good as he was winning it last year, he came into the Woodford better than ever this year. He’s just a little more mature. His owners have been patient with him and it’s allowed him to mature the way he needed.”
Though he was at his best last out, Divisidero has had a bit of an up and down 2017 campaign thus far. He began the year with a fast-closing third-place finish in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park before an uncharacteristically dull performance in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, in which he faded to finish sixth.
“I just think it’s a tough course for him [at Gulfstream],” said Bradley. “I know he won his debut there but I think he has a tough time with the sharp turns, and we probably had him up a little too close to the pace in the [Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap].”
Divisidero, who will look to improve upon a fifth-place finish behind Flintshire in last year’s Manhattan, will break from post 7 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard for the first time. He sits at 4-1 on the morning line.
Listed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite, World Approval enters the Manhattan off a decisive victory in the Grade 2 Dixie on Preakness Day at Pimlico. The gray gelding had failed to earn a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure in four prior outings, but proved he was back in top form in the Dixie, in which he contested a moderate early pace before sprinting away from the field in the stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths, earning him a field-best Beyer of 106.
Trained by Mark Casse for Live Oak Plantation, World Approval finished third in last year’s Manhattan, and followed up that performance by earning his first Grade 1 victory in the United Nations at Monmouth Park. Regular rider Julien Leparoux will be aboard from post 3.
Ascend (20-1), who won the Henry S. Clark in his stakes debut last out; Applicator (30-1), runner-up in April’s Grade 3 Miami Mile at Gulfstream Park; Potemkin (8-1), a lightly-raced 6-year-old and group stakes winner based primarily in Germany for trainer Andreas Wohler; and Sadler’s Joy, a burgeoning turf star who finished third in the Man o’ War in his most recent start, complete the field.
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