The 85,811 fans who came out to Belmont Park on Saturday despite the scratch of I'll Have Another from the Belmont Stakes (G1), were also treated to some prestigious graded stakes on the undercard. The two stakes races contested on the turf were both Grade 1.
The last race before the Belmont is the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (G1), with a field of 7 older horses going 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf course. Hudson Steele was sent off as the 2-1 favorite off wins in the Henry Clark and the Dixie (G2) both at Pimlico. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Brilliant Speed, third in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) last out, and 4-1 third choice Omayad, second in an allowance at Hollywood after shipping in from Chile.
Jockey Javier Castellano sent favorite Hudson Steele to the lead first time past the stands and he set easy fractions of 24.62, 49.42, 1:13.61, and 1:36.80 over the firm course, while stalked by 10-1 Papaw Bodie and 6-1 Desert Blanc. Hudson Steele continued to lead to the 1/8 pole, but tired through the final furlong, setting up a sprint to the line between Desert Blanc and Papaw Bodie. Desert Blanc outfinished Papaw Bodie by a nose in a time of 1:59.65. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to late-running 9-2 fourth choice Boisterous, while Hudson Steele was another nose back in fourth.
Also on the card, the Belmont Stakes won by Union Rags.