For this (long) weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week, we go to Belmont Park in Elmont, NY for 2013 Metropolitan Mile on Monday where Flat Out has been installed as the 5/2 morning line favorite.
The Met Mile, as it’s been affectionately nicknamed, is one of my favorite races of the year. To me, this race marks the beginning of the summer and perennially draws strong and competitive fields.
The Mile distance is another thing I like about the storied race. The distance of one mile is not a sprint, yet it’s not a route race either and it takes a special horse to win it.
The first Met Mile was run way back in 1891, but just over the past 70 years or so the impressive list of winners include super filly Gallorette, Stymie, Tom Fool, Native Dancer, the great Kelso, Carry Back, the stretch running monster Buckpasser, the mighty Forego (twice), Fappiano, the gorgeous and speedy Conquistador Cielo, Holy Bull, the wickedly fast Ghostzapper (for which yours truly was in attendance for and took the 3/5 odds and cashed in) and Quality Road.
The Met Mile is not the only good race on Monday’s card at Belmont. In fact several key races are set to be run including The Acorn Stakes, which will feature the fleet Kauai Katie lining up against Midnight Lucky, Close Hatches, and three others in the one mile Grade: 1 race.
Kauai Katie comes into the Acorn off three blowout wins in a row and has won six of her first seven starts. (Her only loss was a fourth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year).
The speedy Midnight Lucky set the pace in the Kentucky Oaks but tired to finished fifth in her last start, but before that she won the Sunland Park Oaks by eight lengths on March 24.
Close Hatches was undefeated in three starts going into the Kentucky Oaks, but just didn’t run a step in that race and finished seventh. I do except her to bounce back and run well on Monday afternoon.
Also on the Met Mile under-card is the Sands Point Stakes, a $200,000 Grade: 2 race at one and one sixteenth miles on the turf for three year old fillies. I like Watsdachances, who was second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly Turf last year, in that race.
In the very next race on the card (Race:8), trainer Larry Jones has a pretty serious 1-2 punch in Joyful Victory and Believe You Can in the $400,000 Grade: 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at one and one sixteenths miles.
Joyful Victory, who is 2 for 2 in 2013, comes into the Ogden Phipps off a brief rest after her (March 16) Santa Margarita Stakes win at Santa Anita, while 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, who has a won total of eight of 13 career starts, is 2 for 3 this year.
“There’s just really not a lot of spots, and both horses deserve to run after the big pot,” Jones said. “We couldn’t play favorites, both owners wanted to run, so here we are.”
“They’re good to go in posts 1 and 6, so at least they won’t be looking at each other the whole way,” Jones said. “A lot will depend on the break and the post positions, both for us and for everyone else,” Jones added. “I think I have two of the best riders in the country (Rosie Napravnik is on Joyful Victory and John Velasquez is on Believe You Can). They’ll have to do their jobs, and I’ll let them do their jobs.”
Belmont Park – Monday, May 27, 2013
Race 10 – 5:49 PM
Metropolitan Mile Handicap (Grade I)
For Three Year Olds and Upward
|1||1||Cross Traffic||4/C||L||J R Velazquez||117||T A Pletcher||
|2||2||Discreet Dancer||4/C||L||J Castellano||117||T A Pletcher||
|3||3||Mark Valeski||4/C||L||R Napravnik||117||J L Jones||
|4||4||Fort Loudon||4/C||L||J Lezcano||117||N P Zito||
|5||5||Swagger Jack||5/H||L||I Ortiz, Jr.||118||M D Wolfson||
|6||6||Flat Out||7/H||L||J Alvarado||120||W I Mott||
|7||7||Sahara Sky||5/H||L||J Rosario||120||J Hollendorfer||
|8||8||Handsome Mike||4/C||L||M Gutierrez||116||D F O’Neill||
|9||9||Fed Biz||4/C||L||M E Smith||117||B Baffert||
1) Flat Out– is obviously a Belmont Park monster as he is 4 for 4 at “Big Sandy” and just 3 for 19 everywhere else.
I’ll tell you, every time I write him off, this now seven year old seems to come back stronger.
His last race (The Westchester Mile at Belmont on opening day) was a sight to behold. He ran down Cross Traffic in the final yards to win by a head in an eye popping 1:32.4 and score a remarkable 115 Speed Figure in the process.
I am somewhat concerned about him “bouncing” but after listen to trainer Bill Mott, those fears dissipated somewhat.
Mott said he’s seen “all positive signs” since the Westchester. I think he was talking about the back to back bullet works (May 14- 4F- :47.4 and May 21- 4F- :48.1) at Oklahoma (The Saratoga Training Track in upstate NY).
“You wouldn’t think he could be doing any better,” Mott added.
Slight edge in one of the more wide open races we’ve looked at all year long.
2) Cross Traffic– should be Flat Out’s main rival once again based the fact he set a nuclear pace (:45.2, 1:08.4) in the aforementioned Westchester and was beaten just a head.
If he goes just one or two ticks slower early this Monday afternoon….. he could be long gone late.
You have to be impressed with that Westchester race also. I mean he runs Flat Out to a life and death struggled (and also registered a 115 Speed Figure) in just his third career start? That, readers, doesn’t happen very often.
Since he will be on or close to the early lead, the key for him (and this entire race for that matter) will be how fast (or slow) the early pace will be. Then again, you can’t get a much faster pace than the one in the Westchester and he was still right there at the end….an obviously dangerous foe.
3) Sahara Sky– has had a hell of a 2013 thus far. He started the year with a beautiful come from behind win in the Palos Verdes at Santa Anita and stopped the clock in very quick 1:07.3 for six furlongs.
He basically did the exact sane thing in his next race as he came from well back to win the seven furlong San Carlos (also at Santa Anita) with another extremely fast time of 1:21.1.
This dark bay by Pleasant Tap was then shipped east and entered in the Grade:1 Carter Handicap where he, once again, came from far back early but this time he missed by less than a length after experiencing some traffic issues in the upper stretch.
6-1 on the morning line is more than fair and he should be coming down the lane in this race as well….the only thing I don’t like is that he is 0 for 2 at the one mile distance and in fact, he’s never even hit the board at eight furlongs. So, is seven furlongs his ceiling?…guess we’ll find out on Monday.
Honorable Mentions: (and there are several, always will be in wide open races)
Mark Valeski shows eight of nine career races either first or second (the one time he was off the board was in his debut race, so it’s ok to excuse him for that.) and its not like he’s been running against slow pokes either. He’s run in several Grade: 2 and Grade: 3 races and has more than held his own….could be a menace in this race too. Discreet Dancer is four for six in his career including a huge blow-out score in the Gulfstream Park Handicap back in March. He makes just his second start outside Gulfstream Park (his first was a “hung late” third in the Carter Handicap April 6). …all in all, I won’t be surprised if this son of the gorgeous Discreet Cat runs well here. Swagger Jack has really turned the corner in his career since right around the beginning of the year as he’s never been worse than second in his past five races topped off by 15-1 upset win in the Grade:1 Carter Handicap. His works are ordinary but with the way he’s going lately, he must be respected. Fed Biz, if this were a beauty contest, this well bred (Giant’s Causeway-Spunoutofcontrol) colt wins this race. But since its not, and he’s been a bit of a disappointment lately, (he’s only won once in the last seven races…spanning seven months) we have to look at him differently. He is kind of tough to figure out, he has the looks and has been burning up the Santa Anita racetrack in the mornings (he went six furlongs in 1:10.4 on May 20) yet hasn’t run back to those works. He leaves the state of California for the first time for trainer Bob Baffert and if he takes the east coast tracks, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Record: 9-26 = 35%
2012: 24-74 = 32%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces:
**** The Preakness Stakes, broadcasted on NBC two Saturdays ago, attracted 9.7 million viewers which was up quite a bit from last year’s viewers (8.1 million).
It was the highest Preakness rating since 2009, when Rachel Alexandra won a thriller
NBC reported this year’s edition registered the fourth-highest ratings for a Preakness since 1990. (I found these charts while scouring the internet the other day…interesting stuff)
PREAKNESS RATINGS (2001-2013)
|2012||8.1 million||I’ll Have Another|
|2010||8.4 million||Lookin at Lucky|
|2009||10.9 million||Rachel Alexandra|
|2008||7.9 million||Big Brown|
|2005||9.3 million||Afleet Alex|
|2004||11.6 million||Smarty Jones|
|2003||8.6 million||Funny Cide|
|2002||9.2 million||War Emblem|
|2001||8.7 million||Point Given|
|TOP VIEWER MARKETS FOR 2013 PREAKNESS STAKES|
|6.||West Palm Beach||10.2|
**** A plan for the Southern California racing calendar over the next two years, with the impending closure of Hollywood Park, was approved by the California Horse Racing Board this past Thursday
Basically, Santa Anita Park and Del Mar will pick up the dates given up by HollywoodPark, which is being zoned for commercial and residential development next year, with most of the extra race days going to Santa Anita.
Santa Anita will extend the traditional winter/spring meet that closes in April through the July 4 weekend.
Under the dates plan approved for next year, Santa Anita will observe its normal opening day (Dec. 26) and will run through July 6. After a short break, Del Mar would open its doors for their summer meet July 16 and run through Sept. 3.
Fairplex would then open for its short meet a day later and run through Sept. 23. Then Santa Anita would reopen for its fall stand Sept. 25 through Nov. 2. Del Mar would conclude the season with an autumn meet from Nov. 5 to Dec. 7.
I’m glad they just about have the dates figured, but I have to be honest with you. I’m not following the situation all that closely being that I’m still not over the fact they are closing HollywoodPark…I mean, that part still has me sick to my stomach.
**** 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned worked five-furlongs in :59 4/5 Friday at Churchill Downs while continuing to prepare for a start in the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15.
Under jockey Calvin Borel, Fort Larned ran splits of :12 4/5, :25, and :37 1/5. Churchill clockers caught him galloping out six furlongs in 1:11 4/5, seven furlongs in 1:24 2/5, and a mile in 1:38 3/5.
“He worked well and everything looks good,” Trainer Ian Wilkes said. “He’s acting good; he’s like normal.”
**** 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan will likely make his next start the $150,000 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 29 trainer Charlie LoPresti said Thursday
“I haven’t really done anything with Wise Dan since the Woodford (May 5),” LoPresti said. “He’s jogged for two weeks and I’ve just now the last three days turned him around and started galloping him, and he’s like a monster. He could go on. All he needs to do is be set on the rail and work him once or twice and he can run.”
LoPresti added that Wise Dan’s “main goal is the Breeders’ Cup (turf) Mile” at the end of the season
“I don’t think either of his first two races of the year really took anything out of him, but it’s a long year,” LoPresti said. “I’m just trying to preserve him until the real good racing comes, and the real good racing’s going to come in the fall”
LoPresti said the Fourstardave at Saratoga would be the next race for Wise Dan provided all goes according to plan.
**** In Excess, a Grade: 1 winner and a sensational west coast sire, died of old age May 17 at Vessels Stallion Farm. He was 26.
“He was an old man and he’s in a better place,” said Vessels farm manager Kevin Dickson. “The last couple of weeks, he just didn’t look like himself.”
In Excess was buried on the farm next to another late Vessels stallion and top three year old in his day, Free House, Dickson added.
In Excess, who was pensioned in 2011, sired 18 crops with earnings of more than $44 million, including 56 black-type winners including Musical Chimes and Indian Charlie.
In Excess’ career began on the grass in England, but his claim to fame wins were on dirt in New York and I remember him well. He won the Suburban, Metropolitan, Woodward, and Whitney Handicap all in 1991.