Highland Chief: Overcoming Obstacles in Manhattan Quest

Highland Chief’s Path to Grade 1 Success

Last month, Highland Chief achieved a remarkable feat by winning the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont Park as the 19/1 longest shot in the field. It was a stunning victory for the Irish-bred horse, who faced challenging competition including Yibir, the Champion Turf Male. This triumph marked Highland Chief’s first Grade 1 test since arriving in the United States.

A Surprising Win Leading to a New Challenge

Highland Chief’s victory in the Man o’ War was certainly an impressive result. However, he now faces the task of validating this surprising success in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Manhattan. The Manhattan is a turf test for older horses held on Belmont Park’s inner turf course, and it is one of the eight Grade 1 events featured on the Belmont Stakes card.

Highland Chief’s triumph in the Man o’ War came against a field that included notable contenders such as Gufo, a multiple Grade 1 turf winner. Highland Chief displayed his prowess by defeating Gufo by a length after taking control at the top of the stretch. The upcoming Manhattan race will once again pit Highland Chief against Gufo, providing an opportunity for redemption and a chance to solidify his position among top turf horses.

A Journey of Ups and Downs

Highland Chief’s recent achievements are even more remarkable when considering his previous inconsistent performances. As a 4-year-old, he had a relatively quiet season, only racing once and finishing fifth in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom. However, after undergoing throat surgery and a change in trainers, Highland Chief’s fortunes began to change.

Graham Motion took over as Highland Chief’s trainer, and their partnership proved to be a turning point. Motion recognized the horse’s potential, and despite a non-threatening ninth-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile Aqueduct allowance during his stateside debut, Highland Chief’s form started to improve.

Motion explained, “If you go back through his form lines, it’s not that crazy he was able to pull that off based on his Ascot form. He was a solid enough horse before he came to me, and then he had throat surgery before he came to me, which probably helped.”

The Importance of a Clean Start and Jockey Expertise

Highland Chief’s success in the Man o’ War can be attributed, in part, to two key factors: a clean start and jockey Trevor McCarthy’s expertise. Motion acknowledged that the horse’s slow start in the Aqueduct allowance race had impacted the outcome. Therefore, it was essential for Highland Chief to break cleanly in the Man o’ War.

Trevor McCarthy’s strategic decision to place Highland Chief in a forward position proved to be pivotal. By getting the jump on top contenders like Gufo and Yibir, who possessed impressive turn-of-foot abilities, Highland Chief secured a winning advantage.

Competing Against a Strong Field in the Manhattan

The Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park boasts a formidable field of turf specialists and top-notch competitors. Gufo, who won the 10-furlong Belmont Derby last year and finished third in the previous year’s Manhattan, aims to redeem himself in this year’s race.

The competition further intensifies with Santin, the victor of the Grade 1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Additionally, Channel Maker, the 2020 Eclipse Award winner as Champion Turf Male, brings his proven track record to the race. Channel Maker has a strong history in the Manhattan, finishing eighth in 2018 and placing fourth in both 2019 and 2020.

Chad Brown’s Stellar Presence

As expected, renowned trainer Chad Brown has a prominent presence in the Manhattan field. Brown, a three-time defending champion in this race, has won it an impressive seven times. This year, he enters four contenders: L’Imperator, Tribhuvan, Rockemperor, and Adhavo.

Tribhuvan, who finished second to Domestic Spending in last year’s Manhattan, will be seeking redemption. Although Tribhuvan has yet to secure a win in his two starts this year, Brown remains confident in his horse’s abilities. Rockemperor, a past runner-up in the Manhattan, hopes to improve upon his recent disappointing fifth-place finish in the Fort Marcy Stakes.

Brown shared his insights, stating, “I don’t think L’Imperator has more pace than Tribhuvan.” The trainer’s astute observations contribute to the overall intrigue surrounding the race and the battle for victory in the Grade 1 Manhattan.


Highland Chief’s journey from an inconsistent 4-year-old to a surprising Grade 1 winner exemplifies the unpredictable nature of horse racing. The upcoming Grade 1 Manhattan presents a new challenge for Highland Chief as he faces a strong field of turf specialists, including the likes of Gufo, Santin, and Channel Maker.

As the horses line up for the 1 ¼-mile race on Belmont Park’s inner turf course, only time will reveal which contender will emerge victorious. The Manhattan is undoubtedly an exciting event that showcases the finest turf horses in the sport, promising an exhilarating race for both participants and spectators alike.


1. How did Highland Chief achieve such a surprising victory in the Grade 1 Man o’ War?

Despite being the longest shot in the field, Highland Chief’s success can be attributed to a clean start and jockey Trevor McCarthy’s strategic decision to place the horse in a forward position. Breaking cleanly and getting the jump on top contenders proved to be key factors in Highland Chief’s triumph.

2. Who are the top contenders in the Grade 1 Manhattan?

The Grade 1 Manhattan features a strong field of turf specialists, including Gufo, Santin, and Channel Maker. These horses possess exceptional turn-of-foot abilities and have a proven track record in high-caliber races.

3. How does Highland Chief’s performance in the Grade 1 Man o’ War impact his chances in the Grade 1 Manhattan?

Highland Chief’s victory in the Man o’ War certainly enhances his confidence and reputation. However, the Manhattan presents a new challenge, as he faces a competitive field of turf specialists. His success in the previous race showcases his potential, but he will need to maintain his form and overcome strong contenders to secure another victory.

4. What role does trainer Chad Brown play in the Grade 1 Manhattan?

Chad Brown, a highly accomplished trainer, has a noteworthy presence in the Manhattan with four contenders: L’Imperator, Tribhuvan, Rockemperor, and Adhavo. With his extensive experience and past successes in the race, Brown’s involvement adds further excitement and anticipation to the event.

5. What should spectators expect from the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park?

The Grade 1 Manhattan promises an exhilarating display of talent and skill as top turf horses compete over a distance of 1 ¼ miles on Belmont Park’s inner turf course. Spectators can anticipate a thrilling race filled with strategic moves, dynamic performances, and a determined battle for victory.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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