Race Previews

Man o’ War Stakes Preview: Hi Happy on the Rise for Pletcher

Hi Happy winning the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes (Credit: Gulfstream Park Photo)

The Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War Stakes will go off as race 11 at Belmont Park on Saturday. With a post time of 6:50 p.m. ET, the 60th running of the race will close out a fantastic day of racing after headlining a card with five other stakes. The race drew a field of 10 evenly-matched turf runners. Trainer Chad Brown has a trio of horses entered, while rival conditioners Todd Pletcher and Graham Motion each have a starter, too.

The Pletcher-trained Hi Happy enters the race with the highest last-out Beyer speed figure for his win in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park. That race served as his second start under Pletcher, who looks to make him a Grade 1 winner here. His first attempt against Grade 1 company came two races back when he was third, only beaten a length, in the Gulfstream Park Turf. Hi Happy will break from post 7 with Luis Seaz aboard.

Perhaps the best of Brown’s trio for this race is Call Provision. He made his seasonal debut in the Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland and finished fourth while only getting beat by a little less than 2 lengths. Brown believes that the Elkhorn sets him up perfectly for a big performance in this spot.

2018 Preakness Stakes Wagering Guide

“We were playing a little catch up (in the Elkhorn) trying to get him to the Man o’ War,” said Brown. “We used that as a prep for this race. He had a little traffic late in the race and he didn’t get a good pace setup, but he still ran well. He was just a little up against it, but he seems to have bounced out of that in good shape. He should move forward off that race.”

The full field for the Man o’ War from the rail out includes Postulation, Sadler’s Joy, Scholar Athlete, Catcho En Die, Wake Forest, Call Provision, Hi Happy, Bigger Picture, One Go All Go, and Money Multiplier.

Top Choice

#7 Hi Happy – It’s been a good start for Hi Happy since arriving to the Pletcher barn. After the Gulfstream Park Turf, he completely dominated his rivals in the Pan American by 2 1/2 lengths. The second-place finisher in that race, One Go All Go, returns in this race and also won last time out at Keeneland in the Elkhorn. Heart to Heart also came back to win at Keeneland after defeating Hi Happy, so this is obviously a very classy horse. Pletcher seems to have a turf horse that he could have a lot of fun with this summer.

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#6 Call Provision – Brown used the Elkhorn as a prep for this race, which could pay off in a big way. He’s ready to improve and run a big one here. His consistent speed figure pattern is encouraging, and Jose Ortiz stays on to ride despite the loss last time out. Brown is the best at having a goal in mind and getting his horses to run their best races on the biggest days. This horse fits that mold, and that makes him dangerous.

#2 Sadler’s Joy – Two races back, this guy made his seasonal debut a winning one at Gulfstream Park, but he was beaten easily last time out in the Pan American. However, he was wide for most of that race, and with a better trip, he should improve. He’s 1-for-6 at Belmont Park, which is concerning, but he did finish third in this race last year. At this point, he’s earned the right to be taken serious in every turf race in New York and at Gulfstream Park.

#8 Bigger Picture – This horse is about as consistent as they come and had a great summer last year, highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park. His effort in the Pan American left a lot to be desired, but he’ll be better prepared for this start. The former claimer is 4-for-7 lifetime when running at Belmont Park, along with two seconds. A hot pace would be very beneficial for him, but you can at least count on him to come with a run in the end, no matter what fractions the front-runners are setting.

Exotic Plays

#10 Money Multiplier – This horse might always be famous for Brown being caught on TV yelling “DON’T HANG!” as he struggled to hold on and finish second in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer last summer at Saratoga. His 2018 resume has been shaky; after beginning the year with a seventh-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Turf, he shipped overseas to a Group 1 event in Qatar, finishing third. A return to the United States should do him well, and he’ll be in with a big shot if he can repeat some of his races from last summer.

#9 One Go All Go – There’s no doubt that this horse is going to go right to the front, and with a lack of true speed in the race, he could be dangerous. Last time out, he was victorious in the Elkhorn after being allowed to cruise around the track uncontested on the front end. If that happens again, then he’ll be tough to pass, but even if he faces some pressure, he’s shown that he can stick around. He’s been very consistent this year as far as hitting the board is concerned.

Party Crashers

#3 Scholar Athlete – He comes into this race winning three out of his last four races, but he moves up in class after running against allowance foes for the last year. However, he does possess solid early speed in what looks to be a pace-less race, and Motion can sometimes be sneaky with these types. This could be one to play if you’re looking to take a shot with a horse at a price.

#5 Wake Forest – This Brown trainee won the 2016 edition, but he was fifth last year while being defeated by 13 lengths. He comes into this race off of a second-place allowance effort (behind Scholar Athlete) at Aqueduct, but that was clearly a just a prep for this event. At the age of 8, he could be slowing down just a bit, but if the former winner is a big price in this spot, he might be worth a small play. You can never count Brown out.

Throw Outs

#1 Postulation – He moves back to graded stakes company after finishing third (behind Scholar Athlete and Wake Forest) at Aqueduct last time out. He’ll have to improve in a hurry to compete with this group.

#4 Catcho En Die – This horse will try to make the jump from claiming race to Grade 1 winner. It seems like a major longshot, but he could play a factor in the race because it looks like he will contest the early pace.

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