06/04/2009 11:00PM

Six Grade 1 winners clash in Manhattan


ELMONT, N.Y. - Six Grade 1 winners including the 10-year-old gelding Better Talk Now head a deep field of 14 entered for the $400,000 Manhattan Handicap, one of five graded events on Saturday's Belmont Stakes Day card.

In addition to Better Talk Now, who won this Grade 1 race in 2007, the other Grade 1 winners in the 1 1/4-mile turf race are Court Vision, Gio Ponti, Champs Elysees, Marsh Side, and Zambezi Sun.

Gio Ponti beat Court Vision by a nose in the Virginia Derby in the summer, and Court Vision came back to beat Gio Ponti in the Jamaica here last October.

Court Vision comes off a third-place finish behind Einstein and Cowboy Cal in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Under the allowance conditions of that race, Court Vision spotted five pounds to both Einstein and Cowboy Cal. Saturday, Court Vision, Cowboy Cal, and Gio Ponti all carry 120 pounds. Court Vision breaks from post 2, while Cowboy Cal is parked in post 13.

Gio Ponti won the Fred Kilroe Handicap at one mile at Santa Anita on March 7, but has not run since. He will break from post 2.

Champs Elysees, who won the Hollywood Turf Cup in December, was entered as part of a coupled entry with Zamebezi Sun. Only one can run as both have Julien Leparoux named.

Marsh Side, who ships in from Southern California for trainer Neil Drysdale, has not run since finishing fifth in the Dubai Sheema Classic on March 28.

Acorn: Justwhistledixie returns

A bruised foot suffered by Justwhistledixie the afternoon of the Kentucky Oaks may have altered the course of history in racing this year. Justwhistledixie was a strong second choice on the morning line in the Oaks, but had to scratch from a race that Rachel Alexandra would go on to win by 20 1/4 lengths. Had Justwhistledixie been in that race, would Rachel Alexandra still have won that impressively? Would she have been purchased privately by Jess Jackson and entered in the Preakness?

The world may never know.

What we do know is that Justwhistledixie is back and will take on the favorite's role against eight 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn Stakes at one mile.

Justwhistledixie, a daughter of Dixie Union, has won five consecutive starts, including the Grade 2 Davona Dale at one mile on March 1 and the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss on March 28, both at Gulfstream Park. Alan Garcia will ride Justwhistledixie from post 8.

Justwhistledixie is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who will also send out the speedy Dream Play, who won the Comely. Other contenders include Doremifasollatido, the Matron winner; Livin Lovin, the Tempted winner; and Four Gifts, who won the Grade 3 Eight Belles on Derby Day.

Just a Game: Forever Together tops field

Forever Together, winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, seeks her fourth consecutive win when she heads a competitive field of eight in the Grade 1, $400,000 Just a Game Stakes at a mile on the turf. She finished third in this race at 44-1 last year.

Forever Together made a smashing return to the races when she took the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland on April 11. The horse she beat, Rutherienne, came back to win last weekend's Nassau Stakes at Woodbine.

The Just a Game also drew North American graded stakes winners My Princess Jess, Raw Silk, and I Lost My Choo, and European group stakes winners Captain's Lover, Carribean Sunset, and Modern Look.

Woody Stephens: Darley pair look tough

Regal Ransom and the recently acquired Everyday Heroes make up a salty Darley Stable entry in the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.

Regal Ransom turns back to a sprint after finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby. His new stablemate, Everyday Heroes, was acquired by Darley following his victory in the Hirsch Jacobs at Pimlico, his fourth victory in as many starts. He will remain trained by Tim Ritchey for at least this race.

Completing the field are Hull, the undefeated winner of the Derby Trial; This Ones for Phil, who was put up to first in the Swale; Munnings, second in the Champagne here last fall; and Hello Broadway, Gone Astray, Kensei, and Triumphant Flight.

True North: Five face Benny the Bull

Defending sprint champion Benny the Bull will meet five opponents, including multiple stakes winner Fabulous Strike and Two Step Salsa, in the Grade 2, $250,000 True North Handicap. Benny the Bull, who won this race last year, is making his first start since winning the Smile Sprint Handicap last July at Calder.

Fabulous Strike has finished first or second in 16 of 21 starts and was beaten a head by Kodiak Kowboy in the Grade 1 Carter in April. Silver Edition, Sixthirteen, and Desert Key complete the field.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Grade 1 winners in the Manhattan Handicap. There are six entered, not five.