Stone Farm and Madaket Stables' Ascend blew up the tote board when he shot to the front of the field in the G1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes, besting Time Test by 1 1/4 lengths on the wire. A 5-year-old homebred son of Candy Ride, the gelding stalked a mild early pace under Jose Ortiz and had enough left to hold off the field, recording 10 furlongs on Belmont Park's firm turf course in 1:59.97. The Manhattan is the first graded stakes victory for the Graham Motion trainee, who just captured his first stakes win to kick off the 2017 season.
“He gave him a beautiful ride,” said Motion of Ortiz. “He was in a great spot, a good set up. [It's] pretty much how we thought it'd set up. He ran a great race, but you don't expect to win at 25-1. As of now we don't have any plans with him. It was just this race for now. ”
The longest shot on the board, 69-1 chance Applicator sped out of the starting gate to take the lead over the nine-horse field. With a 1 1/2 length advantage, Applicator led through fractions of :24.60 and :50.09 under the clever Paco Lopez, trying for the second time on Saturday afternoon to take the field from start to finish. World Approval, Beach Patrol and Ascend stalked that leader as the favored Time Test traveled in fifth, well covered-up by horses against the rail. Farther back in the field, following their usual late-running style, were Divisidero and Wake Forest.
Approaching the far turn after a pedestrian three-quarters in 1:14.39, Applicator managed to stay in front of the field as World Approval and Ascend began to make their presence felt. Time Test was waiting patiently for Javier Castellano's cue to go after the leaders, waiting until the head of the lane to find clear running room.
It seemed to surprise the other jockeys to find Applicator still on the lead turning for home, though World Approval was challenging him fiercely on the outside. Time Test angled out to make his run, but was unable to make up any ground on the leaders as Ascend kept pace after going three-wide around the turn.
Applicator was the first to give way, but World Approval battled on on Ascend's inside. It wasn't until the final sixteenth that Ascend really found his best stride, moving away late to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The favored Time Test was able to get up for second over a closing Sadler's Joy, and Beach Patrol came again to finish fourth.
“In the first turn I tried to go in between horses to save ground, but I couldn't do it because they were going so slow,” Ortiz explained. “I stayed behind horses for as long as I could and when they passed the five-eighths pole, I put my horse in the clear. On the second turn, I went out because I knew they were going too slow. He was trying to go. By the three-eights pole I knew that Applicator was going to pick them up so I wanted to be close to him. When I was ready to move, I did and he responded very well. When the horse switched leads, I touched him on the back with my whip and he took off. He was very comfortable for the last eighth of a mile.”
Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, Ascend is out of the stakes-winning mare Ghost Dancing (Silver Ghost – Ransom Dance, by Red Ransom). It took the gelding a long time to break his maiden, finally getting the job done in his fifth start, and then he was a useful allowance horse across the east coast. To kick off 2017 Ascend won a listed stakes race at Laurel Park in April, and the Manhattan was his very next start. Overall, Ascend has won six of his 14 starts for earnings of over $850,000.
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