Eleven months after nearly knocking off champion Gio Ponti in the
Grade 1 Man o’ War, 7-year-old Mission Approved returned to turn the
trick Saturday, wiring the field at odds of 21-1 to take the Grade 1, $400,000
Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.
Claimed by trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul one year ago to the day for
$35,000, the bay son of With Approval became one of the most improbable winners
of the Manhattan
in its 110-year history.
Setting easy, slow fractions two lengths ahead of the rest of the field
after a fast start, Mission Approved turned back a challenge from Straight
Story at the quarter pole and pulled away in the final furlong to win by 1 ¼
An even longer shot, 31-1 Bim Bam, finished strongly for second, while
Gio Ponti rallied mildly from near the back of the pack for third.
Mission Approved ran the 1 ¼-mile race over a course labeled
“yielding” in 2:06.32. He paid $44 for a $2 win bet and keyed a
$1,108 exacta with Bim Bam.
Mission Approved had nearly shocked Gio Ponti in the Man o’ War
last year, losing by a neck at odds of 53-1 off the claim. He had not raced
“(He was off) because he had a quarter crack, nothing
major,” said a jubilant Chatterpaul, who landed the first Grade 1 victory
of his career. “I thought it was best to put him up and wait for this
race. (I claimed him because) I liked the horse — a lot of back class. As
long as he’s in front, he’s not going to give it up. It’s
awesome. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Chatterpaul, based at Belmont Park, had entered another front-runner, claimer
Wishful Tomcat, but scratched him before the race, leaving Mission Approved the controlling speed. The
victory, worth $240,000 to Chatterpaul and his brother, Terik, increased
Mission Approved’s lifetime earnings to $760,830 in 23 lifetime starts.
“The trainer did a very good job with him, and he told me he was
fit coming into the race,” said jockey Jose Espinoza. “Coming for
home, I had plenty of horse because he was just galloping easily on the lead. I
was very proud of him today.”
Gio Ponti was making his first start for trainer Christophe Clement
since a close-up fifth-place finish in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez reserved the 6-year-old early and saved ground along the
hedge for a mile before asking for run. Gio Ponti angled wide in the stretch
and came with a charge but could not catch the two leaders.
“This was his first race back from the break,” Clement
said. “He will improve from this race on firmer ground. He’ll be
Al Khali, Bold Hawk, Straight Story, Windward
Islands, Viscount Nelson and Prince Will I Am completed the order