Domestic Spending (outside) and Colonel Liam hit the wire together in the Turf Classic
Trainer Chad Brown will be loaded for bear in the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan, with four of the 10 horses entered running under his banner in the 1 1/4-mile inner turf test for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday, Belmont Stakes Day, at Belmont Park.
No stranger to success in the Manhattan, Brown will be looking for his third consecutive win – and seventh overall – in the prestigious race, which will be the final undercard contest as Race 10 before the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 11.
Brown’s recent dominance in the race is underscored by the fact that a win in the 119th running of the Manhattan would not even be his first three-peat in the race. The four-time Eclipse Award-winner captured three straight editions of the Manhattan from 2014-16. His exploits in the race also include saddling the top three finishers in 2019 and the top two in 2020.
Brown’s quartet all have the credentials to win, but that honor may go to Domestic Spending, a 4-year-old son of Kingman who made a successful 2021 debut in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Domestic Spending showed much promise as a 3-year-old, beginning his career with a first-out win in February 2020 at Tampa Bay Downs, before making steady strides throughout a sophomore campaign that culminated with a win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on November 28. He still seemed to take his game to another level in the Turf Classic, rallying through traffic to dead-heat with the classy Colonel Liam for the win on Kentucky Derby Day.
“He seems to be doing really well and came out of his last race super,” Brown said of Klaravich Stables’ Domestic Spending, who will break from post 4 with Flavien Prat aboard again. “He’s been breezing like a timepiece, so I think we’re in good shape. He ran a faster race than the horse he dead-heated with in the Turf Classic. We’re confident he’ll run a good race.”
Chilean transplant Master Piece adds a bit of South American flavor to Brown’s diverse lineup. Master Piece was a four-time winner in his native Chile, including a marquee win in the Group 2 Gran Clasico Coronacion at about this distance, before he joined the Brown barn late last year and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in his North American debut on October 3 at Belmont.
After receiving some time off following the Joe Hirsch, Master Piece returned on April 16 at Keeneland, where he defeated allowance competition by three-quarters of a length going 1 ⅛ miles with a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. He is owned by Don Alberto Stable and will break from post 5 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Brown will also send out a pair of runners exiting the Grade 2 Fort Marcy, a local prep for the Manhattan. Fort Marcy-winner Tribhuvan was a late addition to the race, while third-place finisher Rockemperor will look to improve upon a runner-up finish in last year’s Manhattan, which was won by his stablemate Instilled Regard.
Brown said he is hopeful an equipment change for Rockemperor could be what gets him back on track, as despite running well on a number of occasions he’s yet to win a race in the U.S.
“What I’m going to do with him, finally, is put a little blinker on the horse,” Brown said. “He’s funny because sometimes he’ll drop out of position and look a little funny and lack that turn of foot in his races, but when you train him, he can be a little bit keen going to the pole, so then I end up not putting them on because of the way he trains. I’m going to put the blinkers on.
“Another horse who was like that was [2015 Manhattan-winner] Slumber,” Brown said. “When I first got him, he would go to the pole with an iron jaw and I’d say, maybe I don’t want to do that, then I’d see him race and know that I needed to (add blinkers). We’ll see with Rockemperor, it may help him move forward. Let’s see how he runs with them. I did see an improved workout with them.”
Rockemperor and Tribhuvan will break from posts 6 and 8, respectively, with Jose Ortiz and Eric Cancel named to ride. Both are owned in partnership by Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso, while Michael Kisber is also a part-owner of Rockemperor.
A winner of four straight races dating back to December 26 of last year, Turf Classic co-winner Colonel Liam will give Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher another strong chance to capture a Grade 1 event on Saturday. A son of Liam’s Map owned by Robert and Lawana Low, Colonel Liam exploded onto the 3-year-old turf scene in 2020 when he made short work of an allowance field at Saratoga Race Course in his first try on the surface.
Colonel Liam nearly followed with a win a few weeks later in the Saratoga Derby Invitational, but he had to settle for fourth behind Domestic Spending. The Saratoga Derby marked the last time Colonel Liam has lost, and his victories in the intervening months include scores in the Grade 1 Pegasus Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park, as well as the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial in March at Fair Grounds.
“It’s a very deep race and a very good race, arguably the strongest on the card,” said Pletcher of the Manhattan. “Colonel Liam is doing great and he’s run well every time; we expect him to do the same again.
“I think he thought he had [the Turf Classic] won last time and he may have idled a touch when he got to the lead,” Pletcher added. “Depending on the pace scenario, I don’t see too much pace. He may find himself closer and possibly on the lead. We’ll play it by ear and let him do his thing.”
Colonel Liam will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from the outermost post 10.
Trainer Christophe Clement is a three-time Manhattan winner and will send out a pair of runners in Gufo and City Man. The former rose through the stakes ranks last year with Domestic Spending and Colonel Liam, two rivals he’s well acquainted with. A 4-year-old son of Declaration of War, Gufo finished second to Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby and third in the Hollywood Derby, beaten a head and a neck, respectively, on those occasions. In his 2021 unveiling in the Grade 1 Man O’ War over this turf course, the Otter Bend Stables color-bearer lodged yet another near miss, this time finishing second by a nose.
“He’s doing very well,” Clement said of Gufo, who will enlist the services of Joel Rosario from post 9. “I worked him on Friday and he had a nice work. He’s a nice horse. He ran very well in the Man o’ War. The Manhattan is going to be a very tough race, it always is.”
The Manhattan wasn’t originally the plan for New York-bred City Man, who was entered in the Kingston here on Memorial Day, but Clement was forced to call an audible when that race came off the turf. City Man, second last out in the Fort Marcy, will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post 1.
The upset winner of the Man o’ War, Channel Cat, will also be back to try his luck in this spot. The Jack Sisterson and Calumet Farm product was given an aggressive ride by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the Man O’ War, which seemed to make all the difference as the sputtering 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Cat was able to stir the echoes and just outlast Gufo in the stretch.
“I’m only just getting to know the horse, but he seems to really be coming around in the short time I’ve had him,” said Sisterson, who took over Channel Cat’s training in late 2020. “He was second in the Elkhorn and we wanted to give him time to come back for the Manhattan, but he put on 50 pounds after the Elkhorn and his coat was coming around. If horses could talk he was telling us he wanted to run again. So, we ran him back quick.”
Velazquez will again be aboard Channel Cat and the duo will depart from post 7.
Completing the field will be Masteroffoxhounds [post 3, Manuel Franco], who was eighth last out in the Turf Classic, and Bye Bye Melvin [post 2, Junior Alvarado], most recently fourth in the Grade 2 Dinner Party at Pimlico.
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