The forgotten Belmont day race

Often lost year in and year out in the hubbub of the Belmont Stakes, Triple Crown or not, is the quality of the Manhattan Handicap.  Racing fans have been treated to some absolutely stirring renditions of this great event, especially in the last four years. 


Unlike in previous years, the 2008 Manhattan cast did not include a division leader or a heavy favorite.  Instead, it featured an evenly matched group where favoritism went to  Out of Control at 3-1.  After his stablemate Shake the Bank cut out all the fractions, Better Talk Now got into high gear but was stopped cold inside the eighth pole, failing in his bid to win two consecutive runnings of the Manhattan. 


In what might be one of the most exciting stretch drives of the last ten years, three noses wound up together on the wire after 10 furlongs.  The favorite and the one to beat was English Channel as he was making his first start back in America after trying top competition in the Dubai Duty Free.  He was in position when the field turned for home, but there was an old-timer on the move.


Coming off a sharp win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill, English Channel was expected to exert his superiority in the turf division, but he had to deal with rival Cacique, who he beat narrowly in their prior start.  Grey Swallow was invading from California off of a sensational win in the Jim Murray and the venerable old campaigner Relaxed Gesture was there to throw his hat in the ring as well.

Click here to watch the 2006 Manhattan Handicap


Artie Schiller, who had compiled an incredibly impressive 3YO campaign, was sent off the 9/5 favorite in a bulky field that included the filly Angara, who had shown flashes of brilliance earlier in the spring.  It took a perfect ride from Jerry Bailey to beat Artie and all the rest.

Click here to watch the 2005 Manhattan Handicap 

This year’s running of the Manhattan looks like it could easily be one for the ages.  A solid and evenly matched field is set to spar and we can only hope that a year from now we’re talking about five great runnings of the Manhattan in a row.


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