Multiple graded stakes winner Wake Forest will try to duplicate his winning 2016 effort in a field of 10 in the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf Saturday at Belmont Park.
Carded as Race 11 with a post time of 6:50 p.m. ET, the 60th running of the Man o' War will close out a loaded day of racing as one of five stakes on the day's card. The Man o' War will be part of a special, extended edition of Belmont Park Live, airing on MSG+ from 4 to 7 p.m., which will also include the live broadcast of the G3, $350,000 Peter Pan, the G3, $250,000 Beaugay and the $150,000 Runhappy.
This year's Man o' War will be the third for the Chad Brown-trained Wake Forest. The 8-year-old German-bred by Sir Percy won the 2016 edition by three-quarters of a length over stablemate Money Multiplier and last year finished fifth to the Irish mare Zhukova over a yielding turf course.
Off nearly 10 months following a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June, Wake Forest returned to the races April 13 with a game runner-up effort in a talent-laden allowance contest at Aqueduct Racetrack. In that race, he caught heavy traffic in the final turn and had to wait for running room in the stretch, eventually navigating a late run to finish a neck behind fellow Man o' War entrant Scholar Athlete.
“It was a solid effort,” Brown said of the return. “Hopefully, he got the race he needed to move forward and get back to his form from a couple of years ago when he won the Man o' War. We want to give him another shot at this race, so we were pointing here. He got the prep he needed, so hopefully he's good enough. The big key to him is running on firm ground.”
Owned by Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners, and Bethlehem Stables, Wake Forest will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from post 5.
Fellow Brown trainee Money Multiplier will be making his first start since finishing a close third overseas in the G1 H.H. The Emirs Trophy on Feb. 24 in Qatar. That effort was the first on-the-board finish for the 6-year-old Lookin At Lucky ridgling since running second to Sadler's Joy in the G1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course in August.
“He had a big race over there,” said Brown. “He finished third, not beaten too far. He came back here and he's been training along. It seems like he's over the trip fine. It's a tough spot to bring him back but it's right here in front of us and he seems to be going well. We're going to give him a shot at it.”
The Khalifa Shael Al Kuwari color bearer will break from post 10 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard.
Rounding out the Brown triumvirate is Call Provision for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. Call Provision, a 5-year-old chestnut gelding by Lemon Drop Kid, will also be making his second start off of an extended layoff, after closing out his year with a close second-place finish to Spring Quality in the G3 Red Smith Handicap in November at Aqueduct.
Call Provision made his seasonal bow in the G2 Elkhorn on April 21 at Keeneland, where he tracked a loose-on-the-lead One Go All Go to ultimately finish fourth by 1 ¼ lengths.
“We were playing a little catch up [in the Elkhorn] trying to get him to the Man o' War,” said Brown. “We used that as a prep for this race. He had a little traffic late in the race and he didn't get a good pace set up, but he still ran well. He was just a little up against it, but he seems to have bounced out of that in good shape. He should move forward off that race.”
Call Provision will have the services of Jose Ortiz from post 6.
Woodslane Farm's Grade 1 Sword Dancer winner Sadler's Joy will make a return appearance in the Man o' War for trainer Tom Albertrani.
The 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy finished third in last year's iteration in a 2017 campaign that also included a victory in the Grade 2 Pan American as well as a hard-fought fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
This year, Sadler's Joy won the G2 Mac Diarmida at the Man o' War's 1 3/8-mile distance in March at Gulfstream Park. He finished fourth last time out as the 3-2 favorite in the G2 Pan American on March 31, charging from last to cross the wire 4 ¾ lengths behind Hi Happy.
“The horse always runs well,” said Albertrani. “He always comes with a big kick. Naturally, the pace scenario could set up better for him if it's a good, stronger pace, but he always runs a big race. I think he does better with a little bit of time in between and the horse is doing well and that's what I like to see going into a race. You just need a little luck, that's all.”
Julien Leparoux has the return call aboard Sadler's Joy, who will leave from post 2.
Rounding out the field for the Man o' War are Scholar Athlete, who beat Wake Forest by a neck last time out for trainer Graham Motion; Argentinian-bred Hi Happy, who joined Todd Pletcher's barn this winter to secure Grade 1 placing in the Gulfstream Park Turf in February before recording a career-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure with a 2 ¾-length win in the G2 Pan American; the speedy One Go All Go, winner of the G2 Elkhorn last time out for trainer Charles Dickey; Mike Maker trainee Bigger Picture, who won the G3 John B. Connally Turf Cup in January and most recently finished seventh in the Pan American; and Catcho En Die, claimed for $40,000 by owner-trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul last time out.
The Man o' War is one of two turf stakes on Saturday, joined by the Grade 3, $200,000 Beaugay for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf.
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