by NYRA Press Office
Spring Quality staged a sensational stretch run and won a four-horse blanket finish to post an upset Saturday in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day.
Given a perfectly timed ride by Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, the 6-year-old gelding rallied against a strong field of 13 and caught his best stride in the stretch after making his move around the far turn, winning by a neck over Sadler's Joy, with Hi Happy third, another neck back, and Manitoulin fourth, just another neck back.
The win gave trainer Graham Motion his second straight upset victory in the Manhattan, having won last year's edition with 27-1 Ascend.
The Augustin Stable-owned Spring Quality, let go at 18-1, was content to linger in 11th place, about 10 lengths off the front-running duo of Hi Happy and Hello Don Julio, as they traded places on the lead through an opening quarter mile in 24.08 seconds, with the half going in 48.52 and three quarters in 1:12.01.
Rounding the far turn, Prado guided the Spring Quality toward the outside, where he steadily began picking off rivals and moved into position to challenge the front-runners, who by this time were Hi Happy, Manitoulin and Sadler's Joy.
Given his cue once straightened eight-wide for home, Spring Quality accelerated through the final furlong to catch Sadler's Joy at the wire, stopping the clock in 1:58.58 for the 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf.
"I hated the post position [No. 13], but he had a great trip, considering the post," said Motion. "We felt like there was quite a lot of pace. The one thing we had to do was save ground; that was the most important thing. We saved ground on the first turn and I loved where he was down the backside. He had to swing a little wide coming off the bend, but he's really special. How about two years in a row, winning this race with a long shot? It's pretty crazy."
Spring Quality returned $38 for a $2 win bet, and extended his record to 6-3-0 from 11 lifetime starts. The winner's purse of $535,000 boosted his bankroll to $860,797 with his first Grade 1 win, with his only other graded stakes win the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap last November at Aqueduct Racetrack. Just prior to the Manhattan, Spring Quality finished second to Robert Bruce in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 5 at Belmont.
"He broke OK and I was able to tuck right in and save some ground most of the turn," said Prado. "When I asked him, he kicked right in."
Prado, who has won more than 7,000 races, won his second Manhattan - the other coming in 2006 aboard Cacique.
"Tough beat. He ran such a good race,'' said Sadler Joy's rider, Javier Castellano. "I like the way he did it today. Unfortunately, we got beat by a long shot. He came from way back. One more jump. In those kind of races, you've got to be lucky and get the bob."
Chad Brown, trainer of favored Beach Patrol, who faded from third in the stretch and finished last, and Robert Bruce, who was sixth, offered no excuses.
"They didn't do too well, both horses finished off the board," he said.
Completing the order of finish behind fourth-place Manitoulin were Fashion Business, Robert Bruce, Hello Don Julio, Channel Maker, Multiplier, Catcho E Die, One Go All Go, Alexios Komnenos and Beach Patrol.