2019 Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile) Contenders & Odds

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NYRA Press Release | OTB Writer

Saturday, June 8: The Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap

Annually one of the country's most highly anticipated races, Saturday's Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap offers a rousing renewal in 2019.

The 'Win and You're In' for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile has attracted an epic field of nine including five Grade/Group 1 winners, six millionaires and the world's richest horse.

The Runhappy Metropolitan is one of an unprecedented eight Grade 1 races on the card for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

2019 Metropolitan Handicap Odds & Entries

Race 9 at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 08 - Post 4:46 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Coal Front 6-1 Jose Ortiz
122 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
2 McKinzie 5-2 Mike Smith
124 Lbs
Bob Baffert
3 Mitole 3-1 Ricardo Santana, Jr.
122 Lbs
Steven Asmussen
4 Thunder Snow (IRE) 5-1 Christophe Soumillon
124 Lbs
Saeed bin Suroor
5 Tale of Silence 30-1 Julien Leparoux
116 Lbs
Barclay Tagg
6 Promises Fulfilled 12-1 Luis Saez
120 Lbs
Dale Romans
7 Firenze Fire 4-1 Irad Ortiz, Jr.
119 Lbs
Jason Servis
8 Pavel 20-1 Mario Gutierrez
118 Lbs
Doug O'Neill
9 Prince Lucky 12-1 John Velazquez
119 Lbs
Todd Pletcher

The winner will join elite company, including Kelso, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Forego, Holy Bull and Ghostzapper, as well as the most memorable performer this decade, Frosted, whose 2016 razing of his rivals by 14¼ lengths in 1:32.73 was one for the record books on both accounts.

Those same royal blue silks of that Godolphin's Frosted flashed past the finish three years ago return with Thunder Snow, the world's premier ownership's top purse-earning pupil with a bankroll of $16,391,476 - $7 million more than all of his competitors combined. The four-time Group 1-winning globetrotter the world's current leader in that category, thanks to 11 Group 1 wins or placings in five countries and having twice annexed the globe's richest affair, the 10-furlong Group 1 Dubai World Cup.

After eight consecutive races at 1 3/16 miles or farther, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained and currently UK-based 5-year-old son of Helmet cuts back to a one-turn mile trip at which he won the 2017 Group 3 UAE 2,000 Guineas, coincidentally over 2018 Met Mile victor Bee Jersey and subsequent Group 1 winners Capezzano and Best Solution.

The multi-surface specialist returns to the U.S. for the first time since finishing third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic and will again receive the services of France's champion jockey Christophe Soumillon. They break from post 4 racing for the first time since March 30 and fourth attempt at an American Grade 1. He will carry co-highweight of 124 pounds under the handicap conditions-the least he has carried since his March 2017 Group 2 UAE Derby victory.

"This is a good place to start for him," Bin Suroor said of the 2018 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up. "He is ready to run. He will have an American campaign and we want to get him started. The Breeders' Cup Classic is the goal again this year."

Sharing top weight is Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman's three-time Grade 1-winning McKinzie, who appears the horse to beat on paper, despite finishing well behind Thunder Snow when 12th in the Classic.

Raced four times to a pair of victories and second-place finishes since, he is more effective at trips around one mile, including a pair of one-sided victories in December's seven-furlong Grade 1 Malibu and last month's 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Alysheba-both by a widening 4¾ lengths. A winner of six of 10, the well-regarded son of champion Street Sense and Breeders' Cup-placed Runway Model appears primed to pose in the winner's enclosure for his Hall of Fame trainer and jockey, Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, who teamed up to win this in 2017 with Mor Spirit. Smith, who also won with Holy Bull in 1994, will look to work out a winning strategy from post 2.

Three others to race on the 2019 Dubai World Cup card are entered, led by Group 2 Godolphin Mile winner Coal Front, who carries 122 pounds for trainer Todd Pletcher. Devoid of a top-level win, the son of Stay Thirsty was fifth in his lone Grade 1 try, 2017's H. Allen Jerkens. Jose Ortiz will guide Coal Front from the inside post.

Pletcher will also saddle multiple graded stakes winner Prince Lucky in the Runhappy Metropolitan. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Corinthian captured the Grade 3 Hal's Hope and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile over the winter at Gulfstream Park

He will be piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 9.

Category is 'Grade 1-winning longshots that start with the letter P,' as Robert J. Baron's 2018 Jerkens winner Promises Fulfilled (120 pounds) and Reddam Racing's Stephen Foster victor Pavel (118 pounds) must improve after each finishing fourth at Meydan, while also seeking their respective first victories since last summer.

The former followed his fourth in the six-furlong Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen behind X Y Jet with a third behind Mitole in last month's seven-furlong Grade 1 Churchill Downs.

Pavel was fourth for the second consecutive year in the Dubai World Cup and 10th in last fall's Classic, but has shown a liking for the Belmont surface when third in the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The Dale Romans-trained Promises Fulfilled breaks from post 6 under Luis Saez, while the Doug O'Neill-trained Pavel will reunite with Mario Gutierrez from post 8.

William and Corrine Heiligbrodt's Mitole, who carries the same 122 pounds as Coal Front, will garner plenty of support on the back of his 3½-length Derby Day win.

Trained and ridden by last year's winning team of Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr., the lightning-quick son of Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya will look to be the third to pull off the Churchill Downs-Met Mile double after Aldebaran (2003) and Shackleford (2012). Representing the best of the sprinters in this annual speed vs. stamina clash, Mitole must reverse the five-year trend of two-turn horses cutting back en route to victory, including Palace Malice (2014) and Honor Code (2015). The seven-time winner from 10 starts breaks from post 3.

Another in that category is Mr. Amore Stables' Jason Servis-trained course specialist Firenze Fire, who is undefeated in three starts over 'Big Sandy,' including a nine-length annihilation of Mendelssohn in last July's Dwyer. Fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to cap a productive sophomore 2018 season, he has started twice in 2019, including a rout of Recruiting Ready last out in the six-furlong Runhappy Stakes. His time that day of 1:08.12 signaled a 4-year-old on the improve.

"He's in tough," Servis said. "This is going to be a very tough race. I'm not really worried about him stretching out again. It's a race where we want to take a shot and the mile is within his reach. {The Dwyer] was probably his best race."

Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call on Firenze Fire from post 7.

Last year's winning owner, Charles E. Fipke, returns with Barclay Tagg-trained Tale of Silence to round out the field. A brother to Grade 1 Cigar Mile winner Tale of Ekati, he has also proven effective at the trip, placing five of six times and winning 2018's Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont. Entering off a freshening since his second to Prince Lucky in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile on March 30, the homebred son of Tale of the Cat will break from post 5 under Julien Leparoux and carry 116 pounds.

The Met Mile is scheduled as Race 9 with a post time of 4:46 p.m. First post time is 11:35 a.m.

Pre-Draw News

Probable: Coal Front (Todd Pletcher), Firenze Fire (Jason Servis), Mitole (Steve Asmussen), McKinzie (Bob Baffert), Promises Fulfilled (Dale Romans), Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor)

Bob Baffert Sending McKinzie To Metropolitan Handicap

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won't have an entrant in the 151st running of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes after successfully winning the "Test of the Champion" and capturing racing's elusive Triple Crown two out of the past four years with American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify last year, but he will send a pair of formidable entrants to compete on Belmont Stakes Day undercard, with multiple graded stakes winner McKinzie pointing for the star-studded Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap.

"I really wish we had a runner ready for the Belmont, but it's going to be a great day of racing," said Baffert. "We're going to send two east that we like to compete in some tough races. Martin Panza [NYRA's Senior VP of Racing Operations] always does a great job putting together great cards on big days and this looks to be another one."

McKinzie is pointing for the Met Mile following an impressive 4 ¾ length victory in the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 3 at Churchill Downs. Baffert said McKinzie was in good order following his most recent workout on Monday at Santa Anita, where he completed six furlongs in 1:11.80 handily.

"He's doing great," said Baffert. "I thought he really had a nice work the other day and we'll work him one more time this weekend before we send him to New York on Tuesday."

A 4-year-old son of Street Sense owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, McKinzie emerged as one of the top horses in the country last year collecting graded stakes wins in the Grade 2 San Felipe and Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita as well as a Grade 1 score in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx.

McKinzie was second by a half-length in his 2019 debut in the Grade 2 San Pasqual on February 2 at Santa Anita, and he finished second by a nose in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap before his impressive score in the Alysheba.

"I thought he came out of his last race well and he's really moved forward," said Baffert.

An onslaught of graded stakes winners are expected for the Runhappy Metropolitan, a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" event to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park Nov. 2, including Coal Front, Firenze Fire, Mitole, Promises Fulfilled, Pavel and Thunder Snow.

Baffert said he is expecting a thrilling race.

"It's certainly one tough race," said Baffert. "We think we have a good horse too and we want to compete, but those are the type of horses that make it a Grade 1."

Coal Front prepping for G1 Met Mile

Coal Front (Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners') continued his preparations for the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park when he breezed four furlongs in 50.55 seconds on Friday morning for trainer Todd Pletcher.

The move was the son of Stay Thirsty's second work since an overseas triumph in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

"I thought he worked really well, consistently with what we've been seeing before he went to Dubai," Pletcher said. "It seemed like he shipped back with some good energy, good weight and all the all the signs that you would hope for coming back from a long trip like that. I was very happy with the breeze this morning and everything is going according to schedule so far."

A five-time graded stakes winner at five different tracks, Coal Front has won three races in a row. Prior to his international endeavor, he won the Mr. Prospector on December 22 at Gulfstream Park and the Razorback on February 18 at Oaklawn Park. Both are Grade 3 events.

Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly, LaPenta purchased Coal Front for $575,000 at Ocala Breeders Sales Company's 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in April 2016.

Pletcher also spoke of Marconi, who won his second straight stakes race in Thursday evening's Flat Out and said that the well-bred son of Tapit would target the Grade 2 $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational as part of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on June 8.

In the 1 3/8-mile event over the main track, Marconi sat just off of pacesetter Tour de Force and took command at the top of the stretch to draw off by 2 ¾ lengths under a patient ride by Jose Lezcano.

"It was exactly the way that we thought it would unfold on paper," Pletcher said. "We were able to get into a good comfortable gallop and I thought he ran a really big race."

Owned by Bridlewood Farm, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, Marconi is a half-brother to 2013 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man. He was a $2 million purchase from the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Pletcher also noted that graded stakes winner Bellavais is possible for the Grade 1 $700,000 Longines Just a Game on Belmont Stakes Day. The daughter of Tapit breezed a half-mile in 49.90 seconds over the Belmont training track on Thursday morning. Two-time winner Last Judgment, ninth in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs last Saturday as the second choice, will target the $150,000 Easy Goer.

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