06/06/2008 11:00PM

Dancing Forever wins head bob

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Rene Douglas hadn't experienced such a thrill on Belmont Stakes Day since he notched arguably the greatest victory of his career 12 years ago aboard Editor's Note in the Belmont.

Saturday, not only did Douglas get a thrill when riding Dancing Forever to win the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on the Belmont undercard, but so did the huge crowd in attendance at Belmont Park. After a terrific trip, a dogged effort, a frantic finish, and a fortunate head bob, Dancing Forever prevailed in a tight photo finish over Out of Control in the 107th running of the $400,000 Manhattan.

Dancing Forever, bred and owned by the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey, returned $10.40 to win after finishing 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.62 over a firm turf.

Out of Control, the 3-1 favorite in a field of 12 older horses, finished a nose back in second, while Pays to Dream was another half-length back in third. Strike a Deal was fourth, while Better Talk Now, the $4 million earner, had major traffic trouble in deep stretch and finished fifth.

Pays to Dream was vanned off afterward with an unspecified injury.

Shake the Bank, the "rabbit" for entrymate Better Talk Now, set the pace to the top of the stretch, after which Strike a Deal went for the lead, followed closely by Out of Control, ridden by Garrett Gomez. Meanwhile, after saving ground on the final turn and angling out for the drive, Dancing Forever suddenly darted toward the inside, remarkably free of any traffic. In the final sixteenth of a mile, the race boiled down to him and Out of Control trading lunges on the lead.

Dancing Forever, a 5-year-old horse by Rahy, was winning for the fifth time in 19 career starts. The horse had struggled to make it through his allowance conditions before taking his game to a new level in the last six months or so. In two races going into the Manhattan, he had run career bests when second in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap and winning the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland.

Douglas, a 41-year-old native of Panama, has ridden with success at several major venues throughout the United States. Currently based in Chicago, Douglas rode Editor's Note to win the 1996 Belmont for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.