Good Reward got a great trip and made the most of it, coming through on the rail to take the $400,000 Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) Saturday at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Good Reward saved ground the whole way while Quest Star took the lead in the 10-furlong turf contest. Bailey slipped him through on the inside, and he outlasted Relaxed Gesture and 9-5 favorite Artie Schiller. Good Reward won by a half-length over the closing Relaxed Gesture and Brice Blanc, who nosed Artie Schiller, who had Edgar Prado in the irons.
You don't often get a Shug McGaughey-trained horse at a price in New York, but Good Reward paid $31.80, $14.40, and $7.50. He had run third in his last two starts, the Dixie (gr. IIT) at Pimlico and the Makers Mark Mile (gr. IIT). Perhaps it was the 1 ¼-mile distance that helped the son of Storm Cat
. His last win was an upset at the same distance last November in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT).
"I think Jerry (Bailey) just knew." McGaughey said. "He anticipated so much what was going on that he got him into a position where he would have a chance.
"We were behind a slow pace at Pimlico and he kicked, but just couldn't catch those two horses. I think this is a true mile and a quarter horse. I was glad to see him be versatile enough to be wherever he wants to be."
Out of champion Heavenly Prize, by Seeking the Gold
, Good Reward is a homebred racing for Dinny Phipps's Phipps Stable. He was winning his fifth race in 16 starts while earning $240,000, swelling his career bankroll to $782,353.
Quest Star tried to take the race on the front end while racing slightly off the hedge, milking a quarter in :25.06, a half in :49.96, and six furlongs in 1:13.63. But Bailey had plenty of horse as they hit the stretch and went a mile in 1:37.19. He ran the distance in a good 2:00.69.
"I was just going to follow Edgar all the way," Bailey said. "It seemed like he wanted out down the backside because of what happened at Pimlico, I think. When Jon (Court) stayed off the rail (on Quest Star), I said, 'This is almost like a Christmas present.' I got to stay slow-paced and I was able to save ground. He still gave me a big kick."
Artie Schiller raced on the pace until Prado eased him back on the clubhouse turn and took him to the outside where he contiuned to pressure the early leaders. He fought gamely through the stretch.
"He just didn't have it the last little bit," said Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Artie Schiller. "It doesn't make any sense with his breeding, or maybe he just doesn't want to run this far."
Relaxed Gesture paid $13.20 and $7.60 while Artie Schiller returned $3.20.
Alost finished fourth, followed by Angara, Saint Stephen, second choice Meteor Storm, America Alive, Mustanfar, Quest Star and Macaw.
Meteor Storm, who won last year's Manhattan, tracked the pace on the outside for Cornelio Velasquez, launching a five-wide bid on the far turn before falling back.