Trainer Christophe Clement won the 109th running
of the Grade 1, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan, just not with the horse
As favored Gio Ponti, the defending champion, steadied
sharply in traffic on the far turn, long shot Winchester swung six wide with a quarter-mile
to run for jockey Cornelio Velasquez and blew past a wall of four horses in
deep stretch to win by a half-length.
Once Gio Ponti’s rider, Ramon Dominguez, found room, the
dual Eclipse Award-winning turf champion surged into contention with a furlong
to go, briefly gaining the lead before his stablemate went by.
The winner, a 5-year-old son of Theatrical bred and owned by
Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, picked up the second Grade 1 victory of his
career, completing the 1¼-mile fixture in 1:59.46 on an inner turf course
At odds of 21.40-to-1, Winchester
paid $44.80 for a $2 win ticket and keyed an all-Clement exacta that paid $147.
After completing his 1-2 punch, the trainer, taking the Manhattan for the third
time, was elated in the winner’s circle.
“He ran a great race, and I am delighted,” said Clement, who
along with Gio Ponti last year also sent out Forbidden Apple to take the 2001 Manhattan. “Gio Ponti was
pinned inside. The two horses worked remarkably together last Sunday. Winchester comes from far
out of it; I thought softer ground would serve him well, but for some reason
horses are coming from out of it today.”
The field assembled for the Manhattan was likely the strongest for any turf
race in the country this year, with six millionaires in the field of 11.
Trainer Martin Wolfson sent his speedy Jet Propulsion up
from Florida, believing his gelding could control the pace, and the 7-year-old
led the field through a half mile in 48.94 and a mile in 1:36.46 stalked by
long shot Interpatation and Take the Points.
After saving ground most of the way, Take the Points seized
the lead on the far turn and opened up a 1¼-length lead, but the field soon
engulfed him. Expansion, another long shot, charged into contention inside the
eighth pole; Gio Ponti attacked on the inside; Just as Well rallied before
steadying late; but it was Winchester with clear sailing on the far outside.
“I saw there was traffic on the inside, so I decided to go outside,”
Velasquez said. “He probably had the best trip in the race.”
Gio Ponti, the champion older horse and turf horse from
2009, has now dropped five straight races, but he ran well enough to win.
“I don’t know what happened to Interpatation at the
three-eighths pole, but he got squeezed and we had to check sharply since we
were right behind him. I had to take a hold of him and drift out, then go back
inside,” said Gio Ponti’s jockey, Ramon Dominguez. “I’m not going to make any
excuses. He ran well, and he ran hard.”
Expansion, under Javier Castellano, took third.
With the victory, Winchester
won a stakes race for the first time since taking the Grade 1 Secretariat in
his 3-year-old season. He now has four victories from 16 lifetime starts with
earnings of $672,243.