06/02/2004 12:00AM

Manhattan looks like Stroll's turf


ELMONT, N.Y. - The Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan Handicap, featuring an outstanding cast of male turf horses, heads the Belmont Stakes undercard Saturday at Belmont Park.

Entries for Saturday's 13-race card, including the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes and five other graded stakes, were drawn Wednesday.

The graded stakes make up a $1 million guaranteed pick six, which begins with the sixth race, the $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap, and ends with the 11th, the Belmont Stakes. A $1 million guaranteed pick four commences with the eighth race, the Grade 2, $250,000 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap, and ends with the Belmont Stakes.

As usual, the Manhattan, a 1 1/4-mile turf race, has drawn a stellar field. Among the 10 horses entered is Stroll, arguably the country's top turf horse on the strength of his victory in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 1.

Bill Mott, who is shooting for his fourth Manhattan win, trains Stroll, the 121-pound highweight. Jerry Bailey, a four-time winner of the Manhattan, rides Stroll. Stroll's chief opponents include graded stakes winners Meteor Storm, Mr O'Brien, and Millennium Dragon.

Other horses entered in the Manhattan are European shipper King's Drama, Better Talk Now, Epicentre, Quest Star, and Request for Parole.

Clement going for Just a Game repeat

The Just a Game Breeders' Cup, a mile turf race for fillies and mares, drew a field of nine. Etoile Montante, a Group 1 winner in France against males and the 121-pound highweight, will be the favorite. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Etoile Montante will be coupled in the wagering with Grade 3 Jenny Wiley winner Intercontinental.

Trainer Christophe Clement will try to win his second consecutive Just a Game with graded stakes winner Dedication, who finished second against males in last Sunday's Grade 3 Jaipur. Last year, Clement won the Just a Game with Mariensky, who won the Sheepshead Bay seven days earlier.

Riskaverse and Wonder Again, the second and third-place finishers in last year's Just a Game, make their first starts of the year in Saturday's race.

Caught in the Rain, Coney Kitty, Fast Cookie, and Vanguardia round out the Just a Game field.

Value Plus cuts back in Riva Ridge

The Grade 2, $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup drew nine 3-year-olds. Among the runners is Value Plus, the likely favorite who is cutting back to seven furlongs after finishing sixth as the favorite in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 10. Todd Pletcher, Value Plus's trainer, also entered Forest Danger. Unless something happens to Value Plus, Forest Danger will not run.

The probable second choice is Fire Slam, who turned in an impressive performance to win the Matt Winn Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on May 8. The Laurel Park-based Abbondanza, who won the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes on the Preakness undercard, seeks his first graded win.

Bear Fan enters Vagrancy red hot

Bear Fan, who has been on an incredible roll this year, will be a heavy favorite among nine runners in the Grade 2 Vagrancy. Bear Fan, the 121-pound highweight, has won her last three starts in stakes, including a romp in the Grade 2 Genuine Risk at Belmont Park on May 9.

Beauty Halo, a group winner in Argentina, makes her first start since November in the 6 1/2-furlong Vagrancy. She finished second in her last start to the top filly Randaroo in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct.

True North packed with contenders

A competitive field of 10 older male sprinters was entered in the $200,000-added True North Breeders' Cup Handicap at six furlongs. The True North, a Grade 2 race, features Speightstown, the 119-pound highweight and a winner of two stakes this year; Bold Ruler winner Canadian Frontier; and the speedy Cat Genius. Another top contender is Pohave, third behind the country's top sprinter, Pico Central, in the San Carlos Handicap in March. Pohave ships to New York from California off a win in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Times Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 8.