How to Bet the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

June 6th, 2018

Handicapping major turf races in New York is often a question of identifying the horse with the most brilliant burst of acceleration, since slow early paces tend to place a premium on the ability to finish fast down the homestretch.

With this in mind, how can I side with any horse other than #1 Robert Bruce in Saturday’s $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park?

So far, no one has figured out a way to beat this talented Chilean-bred son of Fast Company, who went completely unchallenged in six starts in his native country, winning them all by an average margin of five lengths. After being brought to the U.S. and transferred to the barn of Chad Brown, Robert Bruce made his North American debut in the nine-furlong Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. III) last month at Belmont Park and was nothing less than sensational. After settling nicely along the inside while tracking slow fractions of :24.72, :50.26, and 1:14.34, Robert Bruce split horses at the top of the stretch and unleashed an eye-catching burst of speed to roll past the leaders and win by a deceptively decisive three-quarters of a length.

Even more remarkable, Robert Bruce ran the final three furlongs in a freakish :32.81 seconds and the final furlong in :10.85, a turn-of-foot rarely seen even over the very fast turf courses at Belmont Park.

Having drawn the rail for the Manhattan, Robert Bruce appears poised for another ground-saving trip, and the ten-furlong distance of the Manhattan Stakes shouldn’t be an issue—he won against Group 1 company going as far as twelve furlongs in Chile. I think it will take a very big run for anyone to defeat Robert Bruce this Saturday and I expect him to win right back.

#10 Beach Patrol, likewise trained by Chad Brown, could start as the favorite based off an excellent 2017 season that included wins in the ten-furlong Arlington Million (gr. I) and the twelve-furlong Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. I), the latter being held at Belmont Park. However, Beach Patrol does have a tendency to come out second-best more often than not—he’s actually crossed the wire second in eight of his 18 starts—and while he must be respected, I’m not sure I would trust him to win at a short price.

#8 Sadler’s Joy could be disadvantaged if a slow pace unfolds over this blazingly fast turf course, but the son of Kitten’s Joy does possess a tremendous turn-of-foot, which he showcased while running the final three furlongs of the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont last month in :33.82 to record a narrow second-place finish. The winner, #3 Hi Happy, has much more tactical speed and could be one of the main dangers on the front end for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Here's how I would play the race:

$10 to win on #1 Robert Bruce $5 trifecta: 1 with 3,8,10 with 3,8,10 ($30)

Good luck!