ELMONT, N.Y. -- When Good Reward runs in a Grade 1 race at the distance of 1 1/4 miles, he can do no wrong.
Good Reward put in a tremendously game effort to win his second Grade 1 in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday. Good Reward was a half-length winner over Relaxed Gesture, who finished a nose in front of the 9-5 favorite, Artie Schiller.
Under Jerry Bailey, who won his fifth Manhattan, Good Reward saved ground in fourth while tracking the pacesetters, Quest Star and Artie Schiller, through the first half-mile in 49.96 seconds. Good Reward slipped through an opening on the inside turning for home and valiantly held off a determined bid from Relaxed Gesture.
The order of finish was completed by Alost, Angara, Saint Stephen, Meteor Storm, America Alive, Mustanfar, Quest Star, and Macaw.
Good Reward ($31.80) covered the distance over a firm course in 2:00.69. The exacta of Good Reward and Relaxed Gesture returned $506.
Trained by Shug McGaughey for his breeder, Phipps Stable, Good Reward won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/4 miles last November at odds of 16-1. Surprisingly, the effort was overlooked in the betting for the Manhattan.
Before the Manhattan, McGaughey said the key to getting a top effort from Good Reward is for him to catch a quick pace. In the Manhattan, Bailey sensed the pace was very moderate and put his mount in striking position of the early leaders, who clicked off fractions of 25.06 seconds, 49.96, and 1:13.19.
"I wanted to have him in position if they were walking the dog up front," Bailey said. "We broke and got position."
The distance may have been a problem for Artie Schiller, who didn't have his customary burst of speed in the stretch.
Edgar Prado, who rode Artie Schiller, replied "no problem" when asked about the effort.
McGaughey said he was pleased to see that Good Reward, a regally bred son of Storm Cat out of the champion filly Heavenly Prize, can adapt his running style to the pace.
"He's a true mile-and-a-quarter horse and I'm glad to see him versatile when it comes to getting position," said McGaughey, who won his first Manhattan. "We'll find someplace to run him, probably Saratoga. If we can continue to improve, with the Breeders' Cup being here, it would be nice to have a chance."