Man o' War Stakes 2021 guide: Odds, picks, pace projection

Man o' War Stakes 2021 guide: Odds, picks, pace projection
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

New York’s first Grade 1 turf event of 2021 has arrived, and trainer Chad Brown unsurprisingly looms large.

Brown trains Sovereign, 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War Stakes. Post time from Belmont Park is 5:44 p.m. EDT, with FS2 to air the 1 3/8-mile turf trip for 4-and-up runners.

2019 Irish Derby (G1) winner Sovereign makes his North American debut in the Man o’ War. He joined Brown’s stable over the winter after making the first 14 starts of his career overseas.

With jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. up, Sovereign will attempt to become Brown’s third Grade 1 turf winner of the season. Raging Bull took the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (G1) last month at Keeneland and Domestic Spending dead heated with the Todd Pletcher-trained Colonel Liam last Saturday at Churchill Downs in the Turf Classic Stakes (G1).

Sovereign’s top challenger Saturday is Gufo (2-1), last October’s Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) hero for trainer Christophe Clement. He makes his first start since running third last November in the Hollywood Derby (G1) and tries to deliver Clement his first Man o’ War score since Gio Ponti won back-to-back in 2009 and ’10.

Other runners of note include three-time Grade 3 winner Field Pass (6-1), European Group 2 victor Ziyad (8-1) and Kentucky Downs stakes winner Moon Over Miami (8-1).

Saturday marks the Man o’ War Stakes’ first running since Channel Maker took the race’s 2019 edition. The event did not take place in 2020 due to COVID’s effects on the New York racing calendar.

Here is a look at the 2021 Man o’ War Stakes field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Sovereign (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 8-5

2. Moon Over Miami (Bill Mott, Junior Alvarado), 8-1

3. Ziyad (Graham Motion, Manny Franco), 6-1

4. So High (Naipaul Chatterpaul, Eric Cancel), 50-1

5. Channel Cat (Jack Sisterson, John Velazquez), 10-1

6. Shamrocket (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano), 15-1

7. Field Pass (Mike Maker, Luis Saez), 6-1

8. Gufo (Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario), 2-1

TimeformUS’ pace projections show Field Pass going out to a lead under jockey Luis Saez, tracked by long shot So High. Note that TimeformUS lacks pace data on favorite Sovereign.

Man o’ War links

Gufo is one of three horses on J. Keeler Johnson’s watch list returning from a long layoff Saturday at Belmont Park.

Reinier Macatangay writes that Saturday’s Belmont card offers some live long shots, including with Channel Cat in the Man o’ War Stakes.

One race before the Man o’ War, 3-year-olds will go 1 1/8 miles in the Peter Pan Stakes (G3), a local Belmont Stakes prep. Macatangay says the race is a good opportunity to pick a new face that has not previously run on the Triple Crown trail.

Handicappers Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis go head-to-head handicapping the Peter Pan Stakes. Note that this was written prior to connections electing to scratch Risk Taking from that spot in favor of the Preakness Stakes.

The Man o’ War card also includes a maiden race for fillies and mares that has Johnson’s attention. Pricy 4-year-old Colombe D’Oro finally debuts for trainer Shug McGaughey, while trainer Chad Brown unveils Irish-bred Infinite Potential.

Other Saturday stakes

Courtesy of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, here is a look at other graded stakes taking place Saturday across the U.S. All times are EDT.

2:31 p.m. – $150,000 Runhappy Stakes (G3), Belmont Park, FS2

Mr. Amore Stable’s 6-year-old Florida homebred Firenze Fire, a winner of 12 races and more than $2.2 million, is the 4-5 morning line favorite against four rivals in the Runhappy Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at six furlongs. Trained by Kelly Breen, Firenze Fire, ridden by the three-time Eclipse Award-winner, Irad Ortiz Jr., is making his 2021 debut. Last year, Firenze Fire won two Grade 2 stakes races at Belmont, capturing the True North in June and the Vosburgh in September. Following the Vosburgh, Firenze Fire finished a fast-closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland. Michael Dubb’s Chateau earned his first graded-stakes score in March when the Rob Atras-trained 6-year-old gelding captured the Tom Fool Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct. Chateau will try to rebound from a well-beaten fourth-place finish in the Carter Handicap (G1) on April 3.  

3:34 p.m. – $150,000 Beaugay Stakes (G3), Belmont Park, FS2

Three fillies and mares out of last year’s Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf – Harvey’s Lil Goil (third), Civil Union (fifth) and Nay Lady Nay (eighth) – will be making their 2021 debuts Saturday in Belmont’s Beaugay Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Trained by Bill Mott, and breaking from the rail under Junior Alvarado, Harvey’s Lil Goil won the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland last year. Allen Stable’s 6-year-old mare Civil Union, a winner five times in nine starts for trainer Shug McGaughey, captured the Glens Falls Stakes (G2) at Saratoga and the Flower Bowl (G1) at Belmont in 2020. Last year, the Chad Brown-trained Nay Lady Nay won the Matchmaker Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park and was third in the Flower Bowl.

4:06 p.m. – $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (G3), Belmont Park, FS2

Holly Hill Stables’ 6-year-old Pacific Gale leads seven fillies and mares in a wide-open renewal of the Vagrancy Stakes at 6½ furlongs. Trained by John Kimmel and ridden from post six by John Velazquez, Pacific Gale, third in last year’s Vagrancy, has won both her starts this year, taking the Inside Information (G2) and the Hurricane Bertie (G3) at Gulfstream Park this winter. Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ 5-year-old Victim of Love, trained by Todd Beattie, is the defending champion, winning last year’s Vagrancy by 1¾ lengths at 27-1. Victim of Love, who was third, beaten 2½ lengths, in last year’s Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga, finished second in an allowance optional claiming race at Laurel Park on Feb. 26 in her lone start this year. 

5:12 p.m. – $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3), Belmont Park, FS2

Klaravich Stables’ Risk Taking was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite against five fellow 3-year-olds for Saturday’s $200,000 Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes, the local prep for the Belmont Stakes on June 5. However, trainer Chad Brown said the Withers Stakes (G3) hero will scratch and instead point to next Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. Michael Shanley’s Nova Rags, a chestnut son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, won the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February and then was second in Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and fourth in the Florida Derby (G1) for trainer Bill Mott. Recent Hall of Fame inductee Todd Pletcher sends out Overtook, second in the Withers, and Promise Keeper, a 5½-length allowance optional claiming winner at Keeneland on April 8.

7:19 p.m. – $100,000 Santa Barbara Stakes (G3), Santa Anita, TVG

LNJ Foxwood’s 5-year-old Tapwater is the 9-5 morning line favorite against seven fillies and mares in Saturday’s 1½-mile Santa Barbara Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Seeking her first graded stakes win, Tapwater, a gray/roan daughter of Tapit, is trained by Richard Mandella and will be ridden from post three by Flavien Prat. Tapwater finished fourth, beaten four lengths, in her previous start, the Royal Heroine (G2) at Santa Anita on April 3. Canadian-bred Rideforthecause, trained by Michael McCarthy, seventh in the Royal Heroine, won last year’s Canadian Stakes (G2) at Woodbine for trainer Gail Cox. Madaket Stables, Laura De Seroux, Marsha Naify and Mathilde Powell’s Neige Blanche has raced four times in the U.S. since coming over from France last year, with her best finish being a third in last September’s Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1).

Man o’ War preview

Courtesy of the New York Racing Association Press Office:

Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Group 1-winner Sovereign will make his first start in North America against a competitive field which includes four other graded/grouped stakes winners in Saturday’s 63rd running of the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War going 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf for older horses at Belmont Park.

The Man o’ War, NYRA’s first Grade 1 turf stakes of the year, honors Samuel D. Riddle’s all-time great, who was voted by multiple publications as the greatest racehorse of the 20th century. The champion’s notable accomplishments include victories in the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1920. Perhaps the crowning moment of his career took place when defeating 1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton in a match race at the now defunct Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario. A winner of 20 of his 21 lifetime starts, Man o’ War’s lone defeat took place in the 1919 Sanford, which he lost to the ironically-named Upset.

Sovereign will make his United States debut for trainer Chad Brown after being formerly campaigned by Irish champion trainer Aidan O’Brien. The son of international champion sire Galileo led from gate-to-wire to capture the Irish Derby (G1) at The Curragh in 2019 by six lengths over former stablemates Anthony Van Dyck and Norway.

Winless in five starts since the Irish Derby, Sovereign finished second to dual Cartier Horse of the Year Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) in July 2020 at Ascot. Not short on mileage, he arrives at the Man o’ War off a close third in the Bahrain International Trophy on Nov. 20.

Sovereign has been in a consistent work pattern since first breezing under Brown’s care in late February. He most recently went five furlongs over the Belmont inner turf in 1:02.54 on Sunday.

“We received him over the winter at Payson Park and he’s settled into a nice work pattern,” said Brown, who trained 2016 Man o’ War hero Wake Forest. “He came over very sound, and in great shape from Aidan. He sure trains like a horse with a lot of quality. I’ve seen him train on firm ground in Florida and he’s fine with it. He can handle some cut in the ground.”

Sovereign, who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., typically showed early speed in his races in Europe, and Brown said he expects the horse to be forwardly placed Saturday as well.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel with him, so if he has speed, I wouldn’t take that away from him,” Brown said. “He’s pretty forward in his breezes. He grabs the bit and goes on. If he breaks well and Irad wants to put him on the front, I would be happy with that.”

Brown is closing in on 100 graded stakes wins at Belmont Park, currently boasting a total of 97 graded stakes wins at the historic track. On Saturday, he also will also saddle Nay Lady Nay and Lemista in the $150,000 Beaugay (G3).

“I’m extremely grateful and humbled to be at this point in my career already. I’m extremely happy to share this with my team,” Brown said. “It’s been extremely rewarding to watch over the last almost 15 years, to see all of the teamwork, and great horses come through the barn, and all the sacrifices that people have made.”

Bred in Ireland by Barronstown Stud, Sovereign is out of the Danehill Dancer mare Devoted To You. The lone millionaire in the field, Sovereign boasts lifetime earnings of $1,149,940.

Sovereign will break from post 1.

Never worse than third in eight lifetime starts, Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo will look to put his best foot forward in his 2021 debut for trainer Christophe Clement, while bragging a consistent 8: 5-1-2 record.

The son of Declaration of War was a late-closing third in the Hollywood Derby (G1), where he came from last of 11 and made a surging move in the stretch to finish a neck to next-out winners Domestic Spending and Smooth Like Strait.

Gufo returns to Belmont Park for his first start since capturing the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) at 10 furlongs Oct. 3. Prior to his breakthrough win, he made deep-closing winning moves in the English Channel last May at Gulfstream Park and the Kent (G3) on July 4 at Delaware Park.

Gufo, who had been training at Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla., shipped into Belmont and recorded a five-furlong work in 1:00.76 on the inner turf Sunday.

“He had a nice work on Sunday morning and we’re looking forward to running him in the Man o’ War,” said Clement, who saddled Gio Ponti to back-to-back Man o’ War scores in 2009-10. “He came out of it very well and I was very pleased with it.”

Gufo will be piloted by Joel Rosario, a two-time winner of the Man o’ War, from post 8.

Wertheimer and Frere’s Ziyad has been third in a trio of North American starts but seeks his first Grade 1 victory in his third start for trainer Graham Motion.

He made his debut for his current trainer in the Sycamore (G3) on Oct. 15 at Keeneland, finishing two lengths to Red Knight before coming 10 lengths off the pace to finish a half-length shy of North Dakota in the Red Smith (G3) on Nov. 21 at Aqueduct.

The 6-year-old son of Rock of Gibraltar previously raced in France for Carlos Laffon-Parias, for whom he ran third in the Canadian International (G1) in October 2019 at Woodbine after setting an easy pace, only to get outkicked by Desert Encounter.

When racing in France, he kept salty competition, finishing a neck shy of victory in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) two years in a row, losing to accomplished runners Coronet and Way to Paris.

“I think he’s pretty adaptable,” said Motion, who won the 2005 Man o’ War with Better Talk Now. “He came to me straight from France to Keeneland last fall, so I didn’t have much time to get to know him before his race there. Now that I’ve had him for a while, I’ve gotten to know him quite better. He’s a very straightforward horse that’s been training very well this year so far. I feel that he’s ready for a race like this. On his form he’s competitive against this group.”

Manny Franco retains the mount from post 3.

Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat nears millionaire status while attempting a fourth stakes victory. The son of English Channel trained by Jack Sisterson has not won since going gate-to-wire in the Bowling Green (G2) in July 2019 at Saratoga and was most recently second in the Elkhorn (G2) on April 17 at Keeneland.

Channel Cat has put together a record of 25-5-3-5, with earnings of $998,522 and will leave from post 5 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.

Three Diamonds Farm’s three-time graded stakes winner Field Pass will look to give trainer Mike Maker his first Man o’ War victory.

During his sophomore season, the son of Lemon Drop Kid captured a trio of Grade 3 events, including the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park and the Ontario Derby at Woodbine over all weather surfaces, as well as the Transylvania over the Keeneland turf. He will see a considerable stretch-out in distance after finishing fourth in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) on April 9 at Keeneland.

Jockey Luis Saez will ride Field Pass from post 7.

After capturing the Man o’ War 32 years apart with Theatrical (1987) and Channel Maker (2019), Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sends out three-time winner Moon Over Miami.

Owned by Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine, Moon Over Miami arrives at the Man o’ War off a pair of graded stakes placings over firm turf at Gulfstream Park, where he was third in the Mac Diarmada (G2) on February 27 and second in the Pan American (G2) on March 27.

The son of Malibu Moon began his career over the main track, breaking his maiden at second asking by five lengths in November 2019 at Aqueduct. After defeating winners in his third start on grass, Mott kept the bay 4-year-old colt on turf and earned a stakes win in the Dueling Grounds Derby on Sept. 10 at Kentucky Downs.

“He’s held up pretty well for what we’ve done with him,” Mott said. “We’ve realized that he does want to run on and go a little further. We’ve discovered that he does that pretty well and is better at the staying distances than he is at the middle distances.”

Jockey Junior Alvarado will pilot Moon Over Miami from post 2.

Donegal Racing’s Shamrocket will receive some added distance when breaking from post 6 for newly minted Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. The son of third-crop sire Tonalist was a close second against Florida-breds going nine furlongs in the Turf Classic on March 28 at Tampa Bay Downs.

On the board in each start except for his career debut, Shamrocket earned an open company stakes-placing in the Dueling Grounds Derby finishing 4½ lengths to Moon Over Miami. He then followed up with a three-quarter length triumph over Florida-bred winners in his sophomore finale on Dec. 23 at Gulfstream Park.

Shamrocket will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. 

Rounding out the field is Knight R.B. Stables’ So High (Eric Cancel, post 4) for trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul, who is no stranger to upsetting Grade 1 turf events on the NYRA circuit, having captured the 2011 Manhattan with Mission Approved.

The Man o’ War is slated as Race 10 on Belmont’s 11-race Saturday program. First post is 1:00 p.m. EDT.

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