Todd Pletcher has a Triple Crown winner in his barn. It's 2015 Argentinian Triple Crown champion Hi Happy, last seen holding off Sadler's Joy in the Grade 1 Man o' War last month at Belmont Park.
Hi Happy will take on Sadler's Joy again, along with multiple Grade 1 winner Beach Patrol in a field of 13 on the turf Saturday in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
The 146th running of the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan is one of six Grade 1 races culminating with the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, in which Justify will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown winner.
Hi Happy, a son of Pure Prize, certainly has shown championship form, capping his Triple Crown run in 2015 with a win in the Group 1 Carlos Pellegrini. The 6-year-old La Providencia homebred was then sent to the United States, ran four times in stakes races in California without a win over the next two years before a change in trainers sent him to Pletcher.
“He's a horse that performs well, very straightforward and easy to train,” said Pletcher, who is seeking his first win in the Manhattan. “When you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to train a ready-made horse, it makes your job so easy. You just try to keep them sound and healthy and point them in the right direction.”
In three races on Pletcher's watch, Hi Happy – with a preference of racing among the leaders – finished third in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf, won the Grade 2 Pan American and held off Sadler's Joy by a half-length in the Man o' War. He's won eight of 13 career starts with earnings of $1,092,961, and will be ridden by Luis Saez in the Manhattan, leaving from post position 3.
Woodslane Farm's Sadler's Joy, who finished third in last year's Manhattan, is likely to be at the back of the pack. Trainer Tom Albertrani said he is hoping his 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy is able to run down the leaders, and avenge two losses in a row to Hi Happy (the other came in the Pan American).
“He's been very consistent, just needed a little more ground to get up in time in the Man o' War,” said Albertrani, who has Javier Castellano as his rider. “It's important he gets a well-timed ride. He has tremendous turn of foot, and when he really starts to kick in he makes up a lot of ground.” Sadler's Joy drew post 8.
With Al Shahania Stud, Sheep Pond Partners, Head of Plains LLC, and James Covello-owned multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Beach Patrol, trainer Chad Brown is looking for his fifth Manhattan win in seven years.
The 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid is making his second start of the year, finishing second in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at Churchill Downs last month. In 18 starts, Beach Patrol has five wins, seven seconds and three thirds for earnings of $2,532,945. The horse drew post.10.
Brown also trains Convento Viejo-owned Robert Bruce, the unbeaten (7-for-7) 4-year-old son of Fast Company who won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in his U.S. debut. Robert Bruce will break from the rail.
“They're both doing well,” said Brown. “Beach Patrol looks to be more forwardly placed, while Robert Bruce comes from off the pace.”
Added Albertrani: “These are a lot of the same horses we've run across before. Beach Patrol and Hi Happy will be the two main rivals we'll come across, but as long as Sadler's Joy runs his race, we feel pretty good.”
Other top contenders look to be Robert Paden's One Go All Go, third in the Man o' War and winner of the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland; Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, George J. Kerr-owned Multiplier, sixth in the 2017 Preakness and 10th in the Belmont Stakes, and winner of an optional claimer on turf in his last start; and Darby Dan Farm Racing's Manitoulin, winner of last year's Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup for trainer Jimmy Toner.
Also entered are Alexios Komnenos, Catcho En Die, Fashion Business; Hello Don Julio, Spring Quality, and Channel Maker.
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