Man o'War Belmont Preview: Clement's Gufo declares war

Graham Motion sends a worthy runner to Belmont for the Grade I Man o'War Stakes on the turf. Check out our analysis of what is shaping up to be a titanic contest.
Graham Motion sends a worthy runner to Belmont for the Grade I Man o'War Stakes on the turf. Check out our analysis of what is shaping up to be a titanic contest.

1 3/8ths (Turf) Man o’War S. (G1), $700k, 4+

The Grade I Man o’War is named for a runner that never tried the turf, but if he had . . . Wiz! Bang! Gosh, he would have been stellar for sure. Traditionally, this race brings in a solid group of grass specialists who have major “settling” ability. The distance requires the ability to route deeply and with much verve. Some celebrated champions have graced this stage, and the results were nothing short of outstanding when it came to their performances. Looking back over the past decade and a half we remember the likes of Better Talk Now, Gio Ponti, Point of Entry, Imagining, Twilight Eclipse, Wake Forest (GER), and last year’s victor, Channel Maker. When you win this one, the doors to greatness are flung wide. Who will join this list? Turfmasters Assemble!

Now, let’s find out about this year’s crop . . .


#1 Sovereign (IRE): (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

The reach of “Super Turf Sire” Galileo (IRE) continues to influence the next generation of global grass runners. This one comes to America for his debut after amassing quite a resume against the likes of greats like Enable, Anthony Van Dyck, and many, many more. Now, Chad Brown takes over the conditioning duties, and it is unclear how this one will respond. Though he doesn’t quite have the panache of a Flintshire (GB) (another past Brown import), with Irad Ortiz aboard, this distance specialist has a good chance to, quoting Frankie Detori, “Conquer America!”

Grade: B+


#2 Moon Over Miami: (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):

Over the years, Bill Mott has trained some impressive turf runners, and this one continues to rally up the class ladder. In a pair of tries this year at Gulfstream Park, Mott’s winter spot, this colt out of Malibu Moon was game in the MacD (G2) and the Pan Am (G2). His late turn-of-foot can be a blessing and a curse. If he is not positioned correctly, then it will make all the difference in averting traffic and getting to the wire. That is what Javier Castellano was able to accomplish back at Kentucky Downs in September. Although Junior Alvarado’s turf riding has somewhat improved . . . he is no JJ. More for this one to do in what promises to be a very difficult race.

Grade: B-


#3 Ziyad: (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: G. Motion):

I am a fan of this experienced gelding out of Rock of Gibraltar (IRE). Trained by Graham Motion, he is making his 2021 debut after coming to the U.S. late last year. His new conditioner did not have much of an opportunity to get to know his new charge because he promptly sent him to Keeneland for the Sycamore S. (G3), and then the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct the following month. Shutting him down for the winter and early spring was a good plan, instead of sending him to Florida. At Fair Hill, he got the chance to get acclimated to his new surroundings. He should be a square price and with Manny Franco aboard once again, a nice play to consider for the win.

Grade: B+


#4 So High: (Jky: E. Cancel/Trn: N. Chatterpaul):

The Chatterpaul Barn is hoping to notch a major score with this class elevator. The former charge of Jonathan Thomas was barely competitive against ALLW Co. at both Aqueduct and Belmont over his last 3 races. These waters are extremely deep when juxtaposed with these priors. Another major issue, and there are several, is that jockey Eric Cancel has not had much of an opportunity to ride much on the grass. Since he spends much of his time up in the frozen wastes of AQU, it does not afford much of a chance to practice settling and rating. Maybe a pass on this one. Cooler heads . . .

Grade: C


#5 Channel Cat: (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: J. Sisterson):

Here is a Calumet homebred who used to ply his trade with Todd Pletcher before moving to the Sisterson outfit. This 6-yr-old out of English Channel was pretty impressive against some salty foes in the Elkhorn (G2) last time at Keeneland. Frankly, it was amazing that Corey Lanerie (a jock of suspect talent when it comes to turf racing), was able to get this one home for 2nd. It is going to be another tough go against this group, and he better have his “A” Game ready . . . not going to be easy for John Velazquez to pick up this torch.

Grade: C+


#6 Shamrocket: (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Donegal Racing has a nice history of backing some lucky entrants. Last out, their son of Tonalist ran well down at Tampa in the Turf Classic 110k race, only coming up short to Me and Mr C. A bit more distance will probably be appreciated since that race was a 1 1/8th. Todd Pletcher’s turf training looks better than ever, and he has a sharp stick to take a shot at this celebrated title. Getting Javier Castellano to ride is a boon, and he should be able to work out a trip from the back of the field. He is simply the best at finding gaps, and his laser focus continues to reflect a mark of consistency. Should be a good price . . . fair odds at post time? I am hoping for 4/1 or higher.

Grade: B+


#7 Field Pass: (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: M. Maker):

The folks at Three Diamonds continue to pump out some impressive turf runners, and this one out of Lemon Drop Kid is no exception. They continue to retain the services of trainer Mike Maker, and this one is near the top of his stable when it comes to ability. There is no question that his fitness is primed, but the distance extension from a mile is going to be interesting to watch. At Santa Anita in the Mathis (G2), and last time in the Maker’s Mark (G1) at Keeneland, he finished 4th. That was a disappointing set of performances. He can do better, especially now that Luis Saez is jumping aboard.

Grade: B-


#8 Gufo: (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: C. Clement):

If you are thinking that this son of Declaration of War is ready to follow the actions of his former foe, Domestic Spending, then you might want to consider backing him. Trainer Christophe Clement chose to spot this race for his return, instead of sending him to the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs last weekend. It probably was a good move considering that race ended in a “Dead Heat,” with Domestic Spending just getting to the wire in time to catch Colonel Liam. Clement is hoping his own runner is sharp, and if last year is any indication, then it could be smooth sailing ahead. Some serious turn-of-foot with this one, plus the services of Joel Rosario are equally impressive.

Grade: A


Check out all of our handicapping selections on Saturday, as we enjoy another Belmont Saturday!


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