Let alone on an easy lead in Saturday’s $750,000 Manhattan (G1), Tribhuvan bid the field adieu entering the far turn and drew off to a 19.10-1 upset. The Chad Brown trainee was overlooked after a disappointing fifth in the Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, but proved a different animal back on the inner turf at Belmont Park.
Tribhuvan nearly wired last year’s Manhattan, when it took a blistering rally from stablemate Domestic Spending to catch him. The French import was in top form at that time. His Manhattan second was bookended by front-running triumphs in the Fort Marcy (G2) on this course and the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth. Tribhuvan tailed off a bit thereafter, with a fifth in the Sword Dancer (G1) and a 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). The Turf Classic figured to be an ideal spot to kick off 2022, but the new Churchill course was playing to closers, and Tribhuvan retreated to a poor fifth.
Although Brown noted that form turnarounds were likely with the venue change to Belmont, that appeared to apply more to Adhamo, the third-placer from the Turf Classic. Adhamo was accordingly the best-backed of the Brown quartet in the Manhattan, dispatched as the 4.40-1 third choice. The Christophe Clement-trained Gufo was favored at 2.25-1, and Brendan Walsh’s Santin was the 3.90-1 second choice.
Yet Tribhuvan was the most rejuvenated in New York. Under a returning Manny Franco, the son of Toronado didn’t break a sweat while taking command through the opening quarter in :24.78. Tribhuvan was likely to be the fastest early anyway, but the other typical pace factor, Channel Maker, got off to a terribly slow start that removed him from the equation.
No one challenged Tribhuvan as he skipped along in :49.65. Franco let out a notch, and he increased his margin to 4 1/2 lengths passing six furlongs in 1:13.24. Given his proven stamina, Tribhuvan looked tough to catch winging into the stretch full of momentum. The six-year-old gelding was gone beyond recall by the mile in 1:36.18. The closers cut into the gap too late, and Tribhuvan crossed the wire 3 1/2 lengths in front. By finishing 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.54, he rewarded his faithful with $40.20.
Adhamo speared through on the inside to complete the Brown exacta, and Gufo settled for a belated third in the Manhattan for the second straight year. Next came Highland Chief; Rockemperor, runner-up in the 2020 edition for Brown; Santin, who was perched in second early but didn’t lift; Brown’s other hope, L’Imperator; In Love; Channel Maker; and French shipper Tokyo Gold.
Campaigned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, and Michael J. Caruso, Tribhuvan has compiled a mark of 23-6-3-3, and he’s now a millionaire with $1,119,965 in earnings.
“I knew I was the only speed in the race,” Franco said. “I just wanted to make sure I broke good and put my horse on the lead. I was really comfortable with the way I was traveling and didn’t want anyone too close to me and the horse responded really well.
“I felt great I didn’t see anybody behind me and said to myself, ‘I’m in a good spot here,’ and he just waited for the moment and rolled.”
Brown wanted that moment to come as soon as possible to embolden Tribhuvan.
“I was yelling from the box seats, ‘Open up, open up.’ I know :49 looks all cozy and all, but I want this horse completely away from everyone else. He runs best that way.”Chad Brown
The trainer reiterated that Tribhuvan simply didn’t handle the Churchill turf last out.
“The turf at Churchill, as we saw today with the news they aren’t going to use it (for two weeks), was wet that week and such. Certain horses didn’t fire on it,” Brown said. “This horse got an easy lead (in the Turf Classic) and just stopped. He didn’t like it at all.
“He nearly held off a great horse in Domestic Spending in this race last year going much quicker than that. He had been training well and we were confident that if he got somewhat loose in this race, at least he would be in the picture late. Manny rode a great race and set an easy pace, but the key is he opened up. That’s what you’ve got to do with this horse. You’ve got to bottom the horses behind you.”
Adhamo didn’t have the clearest run in pursuit.
“He was jammed up in a little bit of a slower pace than he wanted,” Brown said. “He had some traffic. Flavien (Prat) felt if he could’ve gotten out sooner he could’ve made a good run of it.”
Tribhuvan was completing a transatlantic big-race double for his immediate family, also responsible for Group 1 star Mare Australis who landed Sunday’s Grand Prix de Chantilly (G2). Bred in France by Jean Charles Haimet, Elza Petit, and Hannah Petit, Tribhuvan is out of the Next Desert mare Mahendra, a half-sister to Group scorers Macleya and Montclair. His fourth dam, German champion Majoritat, is the ancestress of classic winners Mystic Lips (in Germany) and Eishin Flash (in Japan).