Source: TDN, June
At 27-1 the second longest shot in the field for Saturday’s GI Woodford Reserve Manhattan S., Ascend was roused in upper stretch by Jose Ortiz and won a frenetic sprint to the wire that saw fully six of the contestants shade :22 seconds for the final two furlongs.
Applicator (Henrythenavigator), recent runner-up in the GIII Miami Mile S., used some of his speed to secure the early lead, but he had plenty of company in the form of GII Dixie S. hero World Approval (Northern Afleet), with Beach Patrol (Lemon Drop Kid) atypically off the pace. Ascend came next tracked through by the heavily backed Time Test, who raced keenly as Javier Castellano attempted to get him to settle. Positions were more or less unchanged on the backstretch run, with Jose Ortiz making one of the few tactical decisions by easing Ascend off the heels of World Approval and into a three-wide perch with no cover. Time Test, better relaxed, but still hard against the bit, traveled well enough, waiting for his cue. World Approval was roused to the lead from between horses, but that move was covered immediately by Ascend, and Time Test had a clear shot if good enough. But Ascend did the best of the bunch late, wresting command from World Approval a sixteenth from home before edging clear. Time Test came on for second ahead of Sadler’s Joy in third.
“In the first turn I tried to go in between horses to save ground. But I couldn’t do it because they were going so slow,” the winning rider explained. “I stayed behind horses for as long as I could and when they passed the five-eighths pole, I put my horse in the clear. On the second turn, I went out because I knew they were going too slow. He was trying to go. By the three-eighths pole I knew that Applicator was going to pick them up so I wanted to be close to him. When I was ready to move, I did and he responded very well. When the horse switched leads, I touched him on the back with my whip and he took off. He was very comfortable for the last eighth of a mile.”
Trainer Graham Motion, who sent out fan-favorite Better Talk Now to win this a decade ago, was unsure of a next start for Ascend, who remained unbeaten since adding Lasix for a one-length Keeneland allowance victory last October. Ambitiously spotted for his 5-year-old debut in the Henry Clark S. at Laurel Apr. 22, Ascend lingered at the tail of that 12-horse field, swung out wide for the drive and tossed in a final quarter-mile in :22.08 to score by a half-length.