The 94,476 fans who came out to Belmont Park on Saturday 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 $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (G1), with a field of 12 older horses going 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf course. Out of Control, second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, was sent off as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite. Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap winner Proudinsky was the 4-1 second choice over 9-2 Dancing Forever, winner of the Elkhorn last time out.
As expected, Shake The Bank, coupled in the wagering with Better Talk Now, was rushed to the front to set an honest pace. He was allowed an uncontested lead of as many as 4 lengths while setting fractions of 24.11, 47.94, 1:11.43, and 1:35.38 over the firm course. Stalingrad stalked him in second while Out of Control sat in sixth down the backstretch. Shake the Bank stubbornly held the lead to the 1/8 pole but tired soon after. Dancing Forever, who raced back in 10th early, Out of Control, and Pays to dream, ninth early, all rallied strongly to pass tiring horses. Dancing Forever on the inside prevailed by a nose over Out of Control, who was just a half length ahead of Pays to Dream in a blanket finish. The running time was a quick 1:59.62.
Belmont Undercard Stakes Part 2 - the Acorn Stakes (G1), True North Handicap (G2), and Woody Stevens Stakes (G2)