June 4, 2015
One of the most important races for handicap horses each year is the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap, or the “Met Mile”, and this Saturday, it will once again be held at Belmont on its traditional spot on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Now run for a mammoth $1250.000 purse, there has been no shortage of incredible horses who have proven their worth at this one-mile distance, dating all the way back to Sysonby in 1905. Mad Hatter and Equipoise won consecutive editions in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Devil Diver and Stymie won multiple races each in the 1940’s but it was not until the 1950’s when Tom Fool, Native Dancer, Gallant Man and Sword Dancer won races, with each being named in a list of the 100 Greatest U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century.
The 1960’s were another amazing year for the Met Mile, starting with Kelso and Carry Back and ending with Buckpasser and Arts And Letters, while the 1970’s brought us duel winner Forego. Since then, Gulch, Criminal Type, Holy Bull, Ghostzapper and Quality Road are just a few of the horses who have shone brightly in what is truly a test of the best. At HRP, there is really no other name than Alpha Ultimo when analyzing the might of this event, since the three-time winner finished in the top three twice more en route to more than $11000.000 in career earnings. Mehsod won in 2009 and his son A Mighty Mehsod did his sire proud with a score last year, and in between were victories by Jingle Bells, Allfusionallthetime and Jesse James, who all scored multiple Grade I wins to go along with their Met Mile scores. But with no defending champions back, it is left to a very evenly matched field of 11 to do battle, with potential favouritism probably going to a recent Grade II winner at CD or a past superstar to tired going long at AQU and could use a cutback in distance to score a decisive win that could push him past $5000.000 in lifetime earnings.
1-El Avaro (Six-year-old gray gelding / Owner-Threshold)
In taking the Grade III Cliffhanger last year, El Avaro proved himself a solid horse over the grass but his main track form has only seen him as a fringe player and against the very best, he rates a longshot chance to hit the board and an even longer chance to win. His close third in the Cigar Mile last year was quite solid and resulted in a speed rating that could win this but he was no where close in the recent San Francisco Mile and that makes his chances, despite a low impost, tough to fathom unless he gets to the front and sets a glacial pace all the way to the wire.
Analysis-His wire-to-wire speed will prove tough to take
2-Kavorka (Four-year-old bay colt / Owner-Jerry Garcia Racing)
Last season, Kavorka was good enough to finish second-best in the Grade I BEL on this very same day and has since one the prestigious SA Handicap, so his ability to handle this class is not the question and the main concern is the distance, which might not be near his most ideal. A closing third in a slowly run PIM Special and a tiring eighth before take at CT against similar rivals, the hope is that he gets a swift pace to chase and if so, he might be able to close enough for another good share for an owner who certainly knows how to win this race.
Analysis-Tries to give his owner a taste of Ultimo glory
3-Texas Sky Hawk (Four-year-old bay colt / Owner-Aer Stables)
Winless in three seasonal starts and without a Grade I race to his credit, Texas Sky Hawk looks overmatched in the Met Mile and off a third in the Grade III Westchester, needs a career-best effort to hit the board. Speed ratings are well below the par for this event and although he has been speedy in workouts, others are simply quicker on the racetrack and he will be in tough for connections who are taking a shot and reaching for the stars.
Analysis-Not in the same league as others
4-Nile Warrior (Five-year-old chestnut horse / Owner-Canadian Racing)
Even though it took a track-record to beat him, Nile Warrior was beaten on the square in the Grade III Excelsior at equal weights to his rivals and that makes him a tough horse to back for the victory here with confidence, despite a resume that would make him a clear standout in any field. His first off-the-board finish in almost two years gave many a pause but no doubt about it; his speed ratings are some of the best in the field and if he runs back to any of them, everyone else is running for second.
Analysis-Big shot if he regains his old form
5-Visa Vice (Eight-year-old chestnut gelding / Owner-Mb Stables)
Visa Vice is a multiple Grade I winner who was a star at the age of seven, taking down both the SA Handicap and SA Gold Cup but a recent fourth in the CT Classic was only good and he will need to improve on that performance to prove that another eight-year-old can win this race. He has had plenty of time to recover and come in off a huge five-furlong workout over the strip so look for another excellent effort at a distance that should allow him to get out there, set the pace and take them quite far on the front end.
Analysis-Distance will play to his strengths
6-Masterpiece Five (Four-year-old black colt / Owner-Razorback Racing)
A LA-bred who failed to fire as a Juvenile, or in the sprint races for three-year-olds, Masterpiece Five has turned a huge corner as a four-year-old with massive wins in the Grade II GP Handicap and Grade II CD and now, sets his sights on a bigger prize with a move to BEL for his third Grade I attempt. The only knock against him is the fact that he has to carry the most weight for a distance that might be longer than he likes and if he gets caught late, it will be because his rider is not that familiar with BEL and might not know how to handle the sweeping turns.
Analysis-Highweight needs to prove he is the real deal
7-Super Sexy Sanny (Six-year-old bay gelding / Owner-Downwind Stables)
Super Sexy Sanny can call himself a Grade I winner with his score at this distance in the Cigar Mile Handicap but recent efforts do not peg him as a viable win candidate in this spot and off a seventh in the CD, does not look to have the forward momentum needed to win. Second by a head in this race last year after pressing the entire way, he needs to show more to prove better than that here and with such a talented field assembled, I will let him beat me rather than back him for the win.
Analysis-Is not the same gelding as last year
8-Impending Decision (Six-year-old gray gelding / Owner-Night Rider Stables)
Impending Decision is winless since the Hals Hope in January and without a decent effort to show versus increasing easier company, so the move back up into Grade I status is cause for concern and his form cycle makes him a longshot as he stretches back out. Speed ratings below 100 will not win this race, nor will tiring speed in multiple races, so the best chance for him would be to take back, make a run and try to pick up whatever pieces he can before a move back into reachable company.
Analysis-Recent form is not in his favour
9-Mister Major (Seven-year-old chestnut gelding / Owner-Sanny Village)
Were it not for a rousing win in the Grade II Alysheba at CD, Mister Major would not be talked about in the same breath as others in the field but now, the seven-year-old and former BC Marathon champ warrants a huge look at this one-mile distance and could be the gelding to beat come Saturday. New jockey J R Leparoux rode him flawlessly in a race that features a few superstars and with a great post position with which to flaunt his speed, he can get out there with no trouble and try to emulate that effort and that huge 104-speed rating.
Analysis-The possible favourite off his last effort
10-K T (Four-year-old chestnut colt / Owner-Downwind Stables)
K T has made a lot of money by winning or placing in races where the favourite was not overly fast and while the turf has been a good stepping stone for that practice, his move to the main track here greatly inflates his odds, as does his outside stall. He likes to show speed and that is in abundance here and on paper, he is not fast enough to run with the best and that leaves his running style questionable, as well as his intentions on scoring his first dirt stakes win in nearly a year and a half.
Analysis-Not fast enough to win this
11-Lythrum Salicaria (Four-year-old bay gelding / Owner-Blushing Meadows)
Having never won an open stakes race, and nearly dead-last throughout in the SA Handicap behind two rivals who are in here, Lythrum Salicaria is not one of the big factors in the Metropolitan field unless his owner knows something we do not, or unless he has found a way to close from well off the early fractions. Another who has never cracked a triple-digit speed rating, he has always found this level too tough and will once again and for many, will be trying to make a late move so as not to finish too far back in this high-class group.
Analysis-Not really a serious threat
It takes a special horse to win the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap and any of my top three choices are worthy of adding their name to the list, with Mister Major and Visa Vice trying to become the oldest winners since Alpha Ultimo in 2007 and 2008. The former is a recent Grade II winner who will be gunning to the lead and trying to earn it, ahead of the latter who is known for his speed and an ability to carry it, but not necessarily for his likeness for BEL. That might leave things in the hands of Nile Warrior, who gets regular rider C J Lanerie back in the saddle and might be sitting the perfect trip as he tries to push into the Top 20 All-Time earners with eyes focused on an even higher placing.
Win-Mister Major (7/2)
Place-Nile Warrior (4/1)
Show-Visa Vice (5/1)
Triple T Racing 🙂