Seven to contest G1 Man o’ War
By Jenny Kellner | 05/09/2014 02:42 PM ET
The 56th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Man o’ War at Belmont Park on Sunday will have a decidedly international flavor, with Irish-bred Grandeur among a field of seven that includes four others who began their careers in Europe.
Also on the Mother’s Day card are the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian and the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester. All three races will be televised from 4:30 – 6 p.m. as part of “The Jockey Club Tour on FOX” on Fox Sports 1. The Mother's Day festivities also will enhanced by holiday-themed giveaways and a special Family Fun Day.
Trained by Jeremy Noseda for Yvonne Jacques, the well-traveled Grandeur will be making his third trip to the United States, having won two of three starts in California during his 2012 voyage, including the Grade 2 Twilight Derby and the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes. In 2013, he crossed the Atlantic just once, finishing a well-backed seventh in the Grade 1 Arlington Million, in which Real Solution was declared the winner via disqualification. So far this year, the 5-year-old gelding is 2-0-1 from three starts on the all-weather track at Lingfield.
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Grandeur, 4-1 on the morning line, when he leaves from the rail in the 1 3/8-mile turf race.
Trainer Christophe Clement, who won back-to-back editions of the Man o’ War in 2009-10 with champion Gio Ponti, will be represented by Joseph Allen’s 7-year-old Vertiformer. Off for nearly a year before joining Clement at Payson Park over the winter, Vertiformer launched his 2014 campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes at Sam Houston and then earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 100 when second by a neck to Newsdad in March in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park.
“He had a nice race at Gulfstream; it’s a little bit ambitious to run him in a Grade 1 but he’s doing well, he’ll stay, so let’s go,” said Clement of Vertiformer, who raced in France in 2010. “He had been training well, so it was not a surprise he ran well. He’s an older horse, so like me, maybe he’s a slow learner. He hasn’t won yet, so I have to do a better job.”
Joe Bravo will ride Vertiformer, listed at 8-1 on the morning line, from post position 3.
Amira’s Prince has scarcely set a foot wrong for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott since migrating from Great Britain, posting a record of 4-1-1 from six starts, including victories in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap at the Fair Grounds and the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream in 2013. Third behind Lochte and Imagining in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap, he enters the Man o’ War off a second to Skyring in an attempt to defend his title in the Muniz on March 29.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Amira’s Prince, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, from post position 5.
Real Solution, who arrived at trainer Chad Brown’s barn from Italy early last year, earned a Grade 1 in his third stateside start, having been moved up to first in the Arlington Million. Subsequently third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont and ninth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, the son of Kitten’s Joy has made one start this year, finishing fourth in the Muniz.
Real Solution, 3-1 on the morning line, will carry high weight of 124 pounds, including Javier Castellano, when they leave from post position 6.
Lucayan went straight from France to California last year, where he compiled a record of 1-3-3 from nine starts for trainer Neil Drysdale, including a victory in the Hollywood Turf Cup to close out his 4-year-old campaign. This year, the son of Turtle Bowl was a fast-closing fourth in the Grade 2 San Marco and a game second in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey at Santa Anita Park.
At 6-1 on the morning line, Lucayan will leave from post position 7 in his New York debut with Jose Lezano aboard.
Attempting a training hat trick in the Man o’ War is Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who is hoping the Phipps Stable’s Imagining follows in the footsteps of Point of Entry (2012) and Boisterous (2013). Like Boisterous, Imagining has a victory in the previous year’s Grade 2 Red Smith and he enters the Man o’ War off a rallying second in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in February.
“He ran a great race down there,” said McGaughey. “His last three races [including a front-running win in the Bowl Game in October] have been good races. One of the reasons I was so impressed with the Red Smith was that he was laying off the pace. Going down the backside, I said to myself, ‘This is going to be interesting.’ He laid off the pace at Gulfstream, too. If there’s no speed in there, if we get the lead, that’s good, too.”
Joel Rosario will have the mount aboard Imagining, who is 5-1 on the morning line. The pair will leave from post position 2.
Rounding out the field is Frac Daddy, who in his last appearance at Belmont finished 14th in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. With trainer Ken McPeek switching surfaces for the the 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt, Frac Daddy is 1-1-0 in three starts on turf and has won both starts on synthetic surfaces, including a 4 ¾-length score in the Grade 3 Ben Ali on April 19 at Keeneland Race Course.Alan Garcia will ride Frac Daddy, 15-1 on the morning line, from post position 4.
The field for the Grade 1, $400,000 Man o’ War: