06/05/2002 12:00AM

Manhattan tops of four openers


ELMONT, N.Y. - On Saturday, racing fans have some tasty appetizers to feast on before the $1 million Belmont Stakes is run at 6:10 p.m. Joining the 134th Belmont Stakes on Saturday's stellar 12-race card are four graded stakes, with solid lineups.

The undercard stakes are the $400,000 Manhattan Handicap, $250,000 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap, $200,000 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap, and the $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup.

A $1 million guaranteed pick six will be offered on races 6 through 11. A pick four with a $500,000 guaranteed pool will be available on races 8 through 11.

The Belmont Stakes is race 10.

Eight older males entered the Grade 1 Manhattan at 1 1/4 miles on turf, including last year's winner, Forbidden Apple, who will be making his 7-year-old debut in the Manhattan. The field also includes the top three finishers from the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs - Beat Hollow, With Anticipation, and Hap.

Rounding out the Manhattan field is Grade 2 Dixie winner Strut the Stage, Blazing Fury, Slew the Red, and Krombacher.

The Grade 2 True North, the sixth race and the start of the $1 million guaranteed pick six, features California shipper Explicit, who finished third in the six-furlong True North last year. Explicit, the 119-pound highweight, has won two graded races this year for trainer Ian Jory.

Joining Explicit is Yonaguska, who won the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap at Belmont last fall, as well as Late Carson, Valiant Halory, Entepreneur, Peeping Tom, Smile My Lord, and Summer Note.

The Grade 3 Just a Game, a mile turf race for fillies and mares, drew 11 runners and is the seventh race on the card. Voodoo Dancer, the 122-pound top weight, was an easy winner of last year's Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park. Voodoo Dancer, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, drew the outside post.

Jenny Wiley victor Tates Creek and Stylish, who won the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, were also entered in the Just a Game. Coney Kitty, Babae, Cozzy Corner, Miss Gazon, Walts Wharf, Freefourracing, I Met Somebody, and Penny Marie complete the field.

The $250,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup, a seven-furlong dirt race, drew a talented field of nine 3-year-old colts. The Riva Ridge will be run as race eight.

Warners, the Bay Shore runner-up, seeks his first stakes win in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge. John Velazquez will ride the Dehere colt, who is trained by Todd Pletcher. The promising Yankee Gentleman, who has won two races by a combined margin of 16 lengths, makes his stakes debut in the Riva Ridge for trainer Bill Mott and Jerry Bailey.

True Direction, a winner of his last three starts, dominated the Hirsch Jacobs field at Pimlico on Preakness Day with his 2 1/2-length victory.

American Style, Draw Play, Gygistar, Day Trader, Outstander, and Burnt Ember round out the Riva Ridge field.