The Metropolitan Handicap (Grade 1)- $1,200.000 Purse
BEL- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile on the Dirt
June 6, 2020
Just before the BEL goes off here on Saturday, we will be able to see some of the top older horses in virtual racing running a mile around the track in the 17th running of The Metropolitan Handicap. Looking back, this is one of the races that made Alpha Ultimo a legendary horse, as he won the race three times: in 2005, 2007, and 2008. He ran second in 2006, just a couple tenths away from four straight. Not to mention, he was also third in 2009. It is interesting to see the small fields in those editions, because we certainly do not see that any more. Those wins made Jerry Garcia Racing a three time winner of this race, something was duplicated by Mb Stables last year. Compress would be his winner in 2019, and it would be the final win of his career. He was retired after running third in the BC Dirt Mile. For this handicap, he weights range from 117 to 122, although pretty much everyone is running at 118 or 119 pounds. While three year olds are eligible for the race, there are none in the field. Let’s meet the horses that will be trying to get a piece of this great purse!
#1- Iron Cross (Fractious, ridden by A Beschizza)- Over a mile, this horse has been very good although his best success comes prior to a November 2019 private sale with Saratoga Stud. He has only won twice, so if he could pull this off, it would be the defining moment of his career. What he has done well is hit the board, so off of that, we can expect to see him be a contender here. He is working well, so I don’t have any concerns with him running a big one, but putting him on top is asking a lot more.
#2- Devilish Details (Mb Stables, ridden by J K Court)- The trainer is looking for his third consecutive win in the Metropolitan Handicap, and one of his entries is a gelding that has run better on turf for his career. In his 19 starts, fourteen have been on the grass, and that includes all six of his wins. Main track starts have not been as impressive, and he does come off one of them, where he was fifth in Grade 3 Westchester. The positive is that he really likes this distance, and his bullet work from May 14 grabs your attention.
#3- Sacred Brave (Aml Racing, ridden by J R Velazquez)- This is the low weight in the field, and is the only horse carrying the 117 pounds. In 2018, Sacred Brave won the Queens Plate, making that his claim to fame. More recently, there is not much to be excited about. He has not win a stake since the Queens Plate, and was second in an optional claimer at EMD in his last start, which was in mid-April. The trainer is asking a lot here, so something has triggered that confidence, so we will have to wait and see.
#4- Splash Mountain (John Henry, ridden by R Bejarano)- We go from the low weight to the high weight, as Splash Mountain carries 122 pounds here, the only such horse doing so. I do think that’s significant, seeing how many horses in this field are carrying four fewer pounds. At even weights, he would be an easy choice, and he is still one of the greats of the game that is still active even with his dud at the CT Classic. His story is not a complicated one in here. How much will the weight handicap hinder him? If you don’t think it’s a big deal, then make him your pick.
#5- Broken Tap (Arindel, ridden by T Gaffalione)- This Snow Tap gelding will be looking for the tenth win of his career but will need to be a lot better then he was almost two months ago in the CT Classic. There, he was ninth and not a factor, but the bullring nature of that track makes it easy to throw out races from it. I’m more concerned by his effort in the race that followed, finishing 3rd, and missing by four lengths in an open allowance while running a mile. If he wants payback, he doesn’t have to look far in the gate to find him.
#6- Royal Eclipse (Chili King Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- As mentioned, that open allowance that Broken Tap was third in, well, that was won by Royal Eclipse. It was a needed freshener for this horse that had a long string of off the board finishes. It was also likely a huge confidence boost for the trainer to enter him in this race afterwards. We shall see how much of a difference it made, but I will take a pass on him for now.
#7- Gifted Man (Spankys Barn, ridden by F Prat)- An interesting horse, considering how he changed trainer hands after each of his first four races. With Spankys Barn, he has finally found someone who wants him around, and after they needed a couple races to get comfortable with one another, Gifted Man rewarded the trainer with a win in the Grade 3 Fool Handicap, turning in a 100 SRF while starting from the outside. He did not win the race that ensued, but was fourth, turning another 100 SRF in the Grade 3 Commonwealth. After a couple months off, he takes on the biggest challenge of his career, and is working very well. He could just pull this off.
#8- So Profound (Asgar, ridden by D E Centeno)- This four year old Profound Connection colt will be needing a reversal of fortune after a pair of disappointing finishes. Those races have saw him look to come from behind, and it did not work out. While he did win the Grade 3 Toboggan with this strategy, many of his races have seen him with a frontrunning tactic, so if the trainer feels something needs to be changed up, that might be where we see it.
#9- Gran Z (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by A Cedillo)- The gelding has had a couple months off after running second in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, and will hope for his first win of the year here. He has only raced in the graded ranks a few times, but has been able to step it up and get good results. Overall, he is a consistent horse and that should make him a player in this field. I also like his work from the 8th of May, showing that he is ready to go and he can be expected to run a big race here. Very appealing.
#10- In Captivity (Mb Stables, ridden by D Davis)- Here is the second of two entries out of Mb Stables, and for this six year old gelding, it will be the 31st start of his career. He ran in this race last year, but would have been easy to not notice, as he was never a factor in the race. Since then, he had one win, which was the Grade 3 Bold Venture at WO last September. After a couple months of rest, he looked sharp, placing second in a close photo at the Grade 2 Alysheba at CD at the start of May. Is he ready to get his career going again after that result, or will it be more of what he saw out of him here last year?
#11- Mintmach (Nolespan Racing, ridden by M J Sanchez)- Prevailed over In Captivity last month at the Grade 2 Alysheba, and that win will mean that he must carry two extra pounds here. At 120, that will be the second highest of anyone in the field. It was a stunning win for this horse that had made his living running in claimers up to that point. Nolespan Racing did a great job in claiming him for $10.500, and noticing that true ability of his.
#12- Serengeti Sands (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by P Lopez)- It has been nearly a year since this horse last visited the winners circle, having done so in late June. Interestingly, that was also the last time he has run exactly one mile. He’s continued to run in graded stakes despite the winless streak, and recently ran second at the Grade 2 CT Classic, doing better then Splash Mountain. May be about to come through with a big race here.
#13- Saturday Khatroum (Rousee, ridden by J Rosario)- This has become the new horse where it seems like my covering of his race means he is going to have an excellent race. That was true in his last start, where he won the Grade 3 Westchester. It was an effort that earned him a 98 SRF, and ended a streak of out of the money performances. He will be happy to go a mile again, and worked well here a couple weeks ago. Now, he must overcome this outside post, too.
#14- Phooeys Queen Blue (Aer Stables, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- After finishing last in the Pegasus World Cup, Phooeys Queen Blue would be sold in private sales to Aer Stables for $135.000. In late March, he ran in Aer silks for the first time, but only managed ninth in the New Orleans Handicap, and that’s a race a couple in here hit the board in. Recovered nicely a month later, placing second in the OP Handicap, and worked very well at SA before heading east.