Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Belmont All Around: Met Mile

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 30, 2011

Mondays usually usher in a period of quiet in racing. The influential weekend races have all been run and it’s back to morning works and gallops. Memorial Day however is different, it’s the one Monday where the weekend leads up to the grand finale at Belmont Park: the Metropolitan Mile (gr.1), better known as the Met Mile. After Morning Line was declared from the Met Mile Thursday by trainer Nick Zito with a  foot condition the race became one of the most wide open affairs of the season among the older male division, but then again the entire division is pretty much wide open as of now.

Haynesfield inherited the title of race favorite, though a tempid one, over such competitors as Aikenite, Tizway, Tackleberry, Soaring Empire, Kensei, Yawanna Twist and Ibboyee. Tackleberry was on a roll earlier in the year, winning three straight stakes races starting with the Sunshine Millions Classic before winning the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and Handicap. He created two dynamic rivalries in his five races 2011 races with Soaring Empire and Tizway, both of whom have traded off winning and losing to each other at least once. Tizway finished one spot ahead of Tackleberry in their last race, the Charles Town Classic Stakes, finishing third behind Duke of Mischief and Game on Dude. Soaring Empire started the year out winning the Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr.3) over Rule, Morning Line and Tackleberry and then finished second to Tackleberry in his next two starts at Gulfstream Park. The trio finished 1-2-3 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr.2) on March 12th with Tackleberry gaining the upper hand over Soaring Empire and Tizway, all separated by less than half a length.

Aikenite enters the Met Mile off two consecutive scores in Grade 2 races. He took the Commonwealth Stakes over a short but solid field of five on April 16th and then followed that up with a thrilling nose victory in the Churchill Downs Stakes on May 7th over Apriority, Ibboyee, Capt. Candyman Can, Noble’s Promise and Smiling Tiger among others. He almost ran out of stretch in the Churchill Down Stakes and should appreciate the extra furlong in the Met Mile.

Aikenite, Tackleberry, Soaring Empire and Tizway have all shown excellent form this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone of them hit the board, or even all four. Haynesfield had a poor debut last month in the Westchester Stakes, finishing fourth of five, and I think he’s a vulnerable favorite.

The Belmont Stakes (gr.1) field is slowly coming into sharper focus. Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is a definite starter and Preakness winner has arrived at Belmont and while still being on the fence for the race, he will be trained as if he will enter. A work scheduled for Saturday will determine if Shackleford will compete of sit out the Belmont. Impressive Peter Pan Stakes (gr.2) winner Alternation will skip the third jewel of the Triple Crown in favor of targeting some of the major late summer races. The son of Distored Humor would certainly have garnered a good amount of support, including from yours truly, but will definitely be a colt to watch later in the year. Nehro bypassed the Preakness Stakes (gr.1) after finishing a fast closing second in the Kentucky Derby (gr.1) and showed his race readiness Monday morning at Churchill Downs with a sharp six furlong work he completed in 1:12.20.

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