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Manhattan Handicap offers Belmont Stakes appetizer

Elmont, NY ( – Turf specialists will offer the final stakes appetizer Saturday leading into the 146th Belmont Stakes when 10 go to post for the $1 million Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.

Set to go off about 70 minutes prior to the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion” the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan will feature some of the leading turf runners in North America.

The 3-1 morning line favorite is 4-year-old Seek Again from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Owned by Juddmonte Farms, the chestnut colt will start from post 6 with Joel Rosario riding.

Seek Again nearly pulled off the upset last month versus two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan when finishing just a head back in second in the Woodford Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

“He seems to be coming into this race as good as he was going into the (Turf Classic),” said Mott. “I thought he ran a winning race last time and couldn’t have been happier with his performance. I just hope his level of fitness is the same and he feels like running (on Saturday).”

Seek Again came over from England late last year and won the Hollywood Derby at the same distance as Saturday’s race. The colt has earned $325,256 with four wins and three seconds in nine career starts.

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey goes for a second straight win in the Manhattan with 7-2 second choice Imagining. Fresh off a win in Belmont’s Man o’ War Stakes, Imagining will be reunited with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and leave from the inside post.

“He came out of his last race good and has had two decent works since then,” McGaughey noted. “He won the Man o’ War on a turf that had some give in it, but I think he’s a little better on (firm ground).”

The 6-year-old chestnut horse was second to Lochtel in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 9 to begin his 2014 campaign. Last year, Imagining won the Idle Rich and Bowl Game Stakes as well as the Red Smith Handicap.

Owned by Phipps Stable, Imagining has eight wins in 16 lifetime starts for $813,114. Owner and trainer won last year’s Manhattan with Point of Entry.

Real Solution, third in last year’s Manhattan, will break from post 8 with Javier Castellano in the saddle. The 5-1 third choice is trained by Chad Brown for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

“He’s coming into the race great. He drew the outside, which is unfortunate, but hopefully we can work out a trip from there,” Brown said.

Real Solution, winner of the 2013 Arlington Million, got this year started with a fourth at Fair Grounds in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial. The 5-year- old has banked $818,591 with four wins in 12 lifetime starts.

Here is the field for the Manhattan from the rail out: Imagining, John Velazquez, 7/2; Hey Leroy, Alex Solis, 12/1; Rookie Sensation, Mike Smith, 12-1; Grandeur, Gary Stevens, 5/1; Boisterous, Corey Nakatani, 8/1; Seek Again, Joel Rosario, 3/1; Five Iron, Luis Saez, 15/1; Real Solution, Javier Castellano, 5/1; Kaigun, Alan Garcia, 15/1 and Chamois, Joe Bravo, 15/1.

Post time for the Manhattan will be approximately 5:42 p.m. ET.

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