Seek Again looks for another G1 win in Manhattan
By Sean Morris | 06/04/2014 07:15 PM ET
Seek Again, who nearly beat reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in his most recent start, will go in search of his second Grade 1 victory in the $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan, which will serve as a prelude to Saturday's Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
The Manhattan, now in its 113th iteration, is part of a star-studded Belmont Stakes Day card that features six Grade 1 races and $8 million in purses. The 1 ¼-mile race is carded 10th race on a 13-race program, and will be the penultimate leg of a $1.5 Million Guaranteed All-Grade 1 Pick 4 and a $1 Million Guaranteed All-Grade 1 Pick 6, with the Belmont Stakes serving as the finale for both wagers.
Trained by Bill Mott for Juddmonte Farms, Seek Again has run twice in the United States, winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on December 1 and finishing second in the Grade 1 Turf Classic to Wise Dan on the Kentucky Derby undercard. The Speightstown colt had previously raced exclusively for trainer John Gosden in Great Britain, where he compiled a record of 3-2-0 from seven starts while not testing graded company.
"He seems to be coming into this race as good as he was going into the [Turf Classic]," said Mott. "I thought he ran a winning race last time and couldn't have been happier with his performance. I just hope his level of fitness is the same and he feels like running [on Saturday]."
Seek Again, the morning-line favorite at 3-1, will be ridden by Joel Rosario and break from post position 6.
Trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the Manhattan last year with Point of Entry, will send out Imagining, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. The Phipps Stable homebred is coming off a win in the Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont, which he won by three-quarters of a length over Real Solution, who will also contest the Manhattan.
"He's doing great," said McGaughey. "He came out of his last race good and has had two decent works since then."
Despite having found success over softer turf, McGaughey hopes for firm ground on Saturday.
"He won the Man o' War on a turf that had some give in it, but I think he's a little better on [firm ground]," said McGaughey.
Since adding blinkers six starts ago, Imagining has won four starts, including the Grade 3 Red Smith from off the pace.
The 6-year-old horse will break from the rail with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons.
Real Solution, trained by Chad Brown for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, is hoping to avenge his loss in the Man o' War, which Brown believes is possible with a better trip.
"Javier [Castellano] and I had made a decision to follow Amira's Prince [in the Man o' War], and we probably focused too much on that," said Brown. "When Amira's Prince didn't fire we got kind of stuck."
In 2013, Real Solution, a son of Kitten's Joy finished third in the Manhattan, second by a head in the Grade 1 Arlington Million, and third in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont.
"He's coming into the race great," said Brown. "He drew the outside, which is unfortunate, but hopefully we can work out a trip from there."
Real Solution, 5-1 on the morning line, will break from post 8 with Castellano back aboard.
Trainer Christophe Clement, who will send out Belmont Stakes contender Tonalist one race later, will be represented by Chamois in the Knob Creek Manhattan. Chamois appeared to turn a corner in his last start as a 3-year-old, taking the Duluth at Aqueduct Racetrack by 3 ¼ lengths and earning a lifetime-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure. In his first start at 4, the Smart Strike colt matched that number when he finished third in the Grade 2 Dixie by a length.
"He's a nice horse, but I'm probably running him back a little quick, which I don't like to do," said Clement. "He ran great the other day and it's a Grade 1, so I thought we would take a shot."
Joe Bravo will be aboard Chamois, who drew the 10th and outermost post, and sits at 15-1 on the morning line.
Kaigun, like Seek Again, nearly defeated Wise Dan in 2014, coming within three-quarters of a length of the two-time Horse of the Year in the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland. The chestnut gelding followed that performance up with a fourth-place finish in the Turf Classic at Churchill, 1 ½ lengths behind Seek Again.
"He got away a little awkwardly [in the Turf Classic], but besides that he had a decent trip," said Kaigun's trainer, Mark Casse. "He was on the inside of horses in the stretch and maybe that made a difference."
The Knob Creek Manhattan will be the son of Northern Afleet's first start at 1 ¼ miles since finishing a distant ninth in the 2013 Queen's Plate, but Casse is optimistic that his trainee will handle the distance.
"You never know until you try," said the trainer, "but he's the kind of horse that settles and comes with a big run. Typically, distance isn't an issue with those horses, and he can be placed anywhere."
Kaigun, 15-1 on the morning line, drew post 9 and will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
Rounding out the field are multiple graded-stakes winner Boisterous (8-1), Grade 3 Fort Marcy victor Five Iron (15-1), Man o' War third-place finisher Grandeur (5-1), Dixie runner-up and Grade 3 winner Hey Leroy (12-1) and graded stakes winner Rookie Sensation (12-1).
The field for the Grade 1, $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan: