The traditional lead-in race to the Belmont Stakes once again has lured a superb cast of elder turf stars. The Grade 1 Manhattan at a mile and one-quarter will be Race 10 on the 13-race card. Given the smaller field sizes in many of the key undercard stakes on Saturday, the Manhattan will be prime real estate for bettors with 10 quality entries.
Grade 1 winners here include 2020 US turf champion CHANNEL MAKER, as well as GUFO, IN LOVE, ROCKEMPEROR, TRIBHUVAN, HIGHLAND CHIEF and SANTIN. That's 7 existing Grade 1 winners in a field of 10. TOKYO GOLD is US Grade 1-placed and an Italian Group 2 winner. L'EMPERATOR is a Grade 2 winner, while ADHAMA is a Group 3 winner and Grade 1-placed. There's no weak links here and no decided class edges.
TRIBHUVAN is one of the tried-and-true pacemakers in the elder turf division in America. He'll be contending for the lead with CHANNEL MAKER likely content to sit second if able. It's less clear how it lines up from there, but the pace should be fair with those quality front-runners.
TRIBHUVAN got clear and loose in this race last year, only to be collared by stablemate Domestic Spending with GUFO 1-1/4 lengths back in third. CHANNEL MAKER was not in this race a year ago, but his presence Saturday makes it even more likely that TRIBHUVAN will have a difficult time sealing the deal. Certainly GUFO could take advantage of the more improved set-up, as could TRIBHUVAN's Chad Brown stablemate ADHAMO, who could play the role of Domestic Spending in the sequel. Those two seem the most likely beneficiaries.
SANTIN is pace versatile and is peak form right now after his win on Kentucky Derby Day, which shows he can handle a crowd and some pomp and circumstance pre-race. He's yet to run in New York, but seems to fire similarly no matter where he's traveled for a Brendan Walsh barn that's been really dialed in of late. I loved him on Derby Day at 7-1 and there's a reasonable show he will be a similarly attractive price again.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
GUFO is 15-16 in the trifecta lifetime, including this same race in 2021.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
TOKYO GOLD is a fresh face who has come a long way back to Belmont after solid efforts here as a 3-year-old.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
Let's hit with laser focus. $25 trifecta part-wheel SANTIN, GUFO with SANTIN, GUFO and ADHAMO with SANTIN, GUFO and ADHAMO ($100).