After the disappointment of having to withdraw Classic Empire from Saturday’s Belmont S. (G1), trainer Mark Casse is hoping not to leave New York this weekend empty handed. He’ll have a big shot in the $1 million Manhattan (G1), where World Approval was installed the 3-1 morning line favorite for the 1 1/4-mile turf test.
Third in last year’s Manhattan behind eventual champion Flintshire and the talented Ironicus, World Approval later won the United Nations (G1) and has kicked off his 2017 campaign with two wins, including a strong 2 1/4-length triumph three weeks ago in the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico.
Trainer Chad Brown has won the last three Manhattans with Real Solution, Slumber and Flintshire, and will make a three pronged attack on this year’s renewal with Time Test, Wake Forest, and Beach Patrol.
A relative newcomer to the barn, Time Test is a homebred racing for Juddmonte Farms, the same owners as Slumber and Flintshire. A multiple Group 2 winner in England, Time Test was outgamed by longshot Smooth Daddy in the May 6 Fort Marcy (G3) in his debut for Brown as the odds-on favorite over yielding ground.
“He caught heavy ground and didn’t run quite as well as I thought he would [in the Fort Marcy],” Brown said. “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.”
Wake Forest, who won the Man o’ War (G1) last season, was last of five in his title defense of that race May 13 over an extremely boggy course. He’ll be best judged by his season-opening win in the Mac Diarmida (G2) March 4, though the German-bred has been unplaced in two tries at 10 furlongs since his importation.
Beach Patrol led for all but the last few strides in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, missing by a half-length to course specialist Divisidero. Hero of the Secretariat (G1) last term, Beach Patrol has settled for runner-up honors in three of his last four starts.
Divisidero has done his very best running at Churchill, but does have a stakes win over Belmont’s inner turf and was beaten only three lengths in last year’s Manhattan.
Sadler’s Joy has stepped up successfully to graded stakes company in recent months, missing by a head to Wake Forest in the Mac Diarmida before winning the Pan American (G2) and finishing third in the Man o’ War quagmire. German import Potemkin won the Premio Roma (G1) in Italy and Prix Dollar (G2) in France last fall, but trailed in his season debut at Saint-Cloud. Ascend won his stakes debut at Laurel in the $75,000 Henry Clark but faces a much stiffer test here, while Grade 3-placed stakes winner Applicator is an outsider.