It’s only June, but Saturday’s $1 million Manhattan (G1) has all the markings of being a Breeders’ Cup-quality race, and most of the leading contenders will be racing out of the Chad Brown barn.
The globetrotting Flintshire, who wowed fans at Saratoga last summer winning the Sword Dancer (G1), will be a strong favorite to win his season debut in this historic 1 1/4-mile grass test. Though the Sword Dancer was his only victory in seven starts last season, Flintshire’s reputation rests as much on his runner-up finishes in such renowned events as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Hong Kong Vase (G1), Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1).
Big Blue Kitten, the champion turf male of 2015, looks to rebound from a lackluster fifth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) five weeks ago. He was second to stablemate Slumber in last year’s Manhattan.
“He needed the race,” Brown said. “It was a little short for him. It was a difficult race off the layoff. He was a little far back and the race really didn’t set up for him. He seemed to get a lot out of that race, and has trained strong since then. I expect him to move forward off of that effort.”
Slumber finished behind Big Blue Kitten in four subsequent meetings after last year’s Manhattan, but rallied for third in the Woodford Reserve and could have done better, according to Brown.
“He was a bit unlucky in his last race,” Brown said. “He encountered a bit of trouble late in the race inside of horses. I thought maybe if he could have gone to the outside, he would have made a closer race out of it.”
The fourth of Brown’s quartet is Wake Forest, a dual Group 3 winner in Germany who was along in time to capture the Man o’ War (G1) over 1 3/8 miles May 14.
Divisidero and World Approval, the one-two finishers separated by a neck in the Woodford Reserve, will even take a backseat in the wagering to Ironicus. One of last year’s leading milers unfortunately sidelined prior to the Breeders’ Cup, the Shug McGaughey trainee steps up in trip after a facile score going 1 1/8 miles in the Fort Marcy (G3) May 1.
The relative outsiders in the field are Muniz Memorial (G2) winner Take the Stand and Grade 2 veteran Triple Threat, both of whom have shown early foot, and Mac Diarmida (G2) victor Grand Tito. French import Oathkeeper, meanwhile, will get his first taste of stakes company in an incredibly deep spot.
The absence of defending champion Tepin allows 13 other fillies and mares an opportunity to plunder a top-level event in the $700,000 Just a Game (G1) over a mile on the turf.
Chad Brown has a strong chance in here as well with Grade 2 winner Mrs McDougal, who comes off a season-opening win in the $100,000 Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct, and Rainha Da Bateria, who finished second to Tepin the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) in her debut for the conditioner.
Strike Charmer enters in peak form at age six for trainer Mark Hennig following an impressive score in the Beaugay (G3) May 14. Tapitry, Recepta, and My Miss Sophia followed that one across the wire and are back for a rematch.
My Miss Sophia is one of three entered by Bill Mott, who also has Celestine and Lady Lara, the last two winners of the Honey Fox (G2) at Gulfstream. Faufiler, from the Graham Motion barn, and multiple Group 1-placed Irish Rookie, who invades from Europe, add more depth to a terrific betting race.
Another race that will have bettors’ heads spinning is the $300,000 Jaipur (G3), a six-furlong inner turf dash that attracted 14 older horses. A Lot and Green Mask, involved in a photo finish in the $100,000 Elusive Quality going seven-eighths April 30, are sure to be given long looks again, but Grade 3 winners Rocket Heat, Guns Loaded, and Pure Sensation are among numerous others with a legitimate chance.
Also proven over the course, if not the distance, are Ready for Rye, Summation Time, Mosler, and Commute.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)