Met Mile a Magnificent Race

Met Mile Field Loaded for Saturday’s Super Stakes Card at Belmont

A huge weekend of racing is set for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, and the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap is loaded with a talented field. The one-turn ‘Met Mile’ event on the main track is part of a nine graded stakes race card Saturday, June 11 that includes the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The ‘Met Mile’ is also a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup dirt mile November 5 at Santa Anita.

Heading the strong 13-horse field as favorite is Frosted, who finished second in last year’s Belmont Stakes following a fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a win in the Wood Memorial. Frosted won this year’s Al Maktoum Challenge in Dubai at Meydan in February. He’s one of two Grade I winners in the field along with Noble Bird, who wired the field by 11-lengths in winning the Grade 3 Pimlico Special May 20. The son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone seems to be “putting it all together” says his Belmont-based assistant trainer Randi Melton.

“Frosted couldn’t be doing any better. This race could be a little short for him, but we’re excited about it and I think there will be a lot of pace,” said trainer Kairan McLaughlin.

Also running for McLaughlin is Tamarkuz, who finished fourth in last year’s Met Mile and has not won since March, 2015 in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan.  Marking is getting respect in the betting market for McLaughlin despite not yet winning a stakes race and moving up in class. Ami’s Flatter is 2-for-3 this year after winning the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland in April, but is also facing his strongest test yet.

Anchor Down will try to make it two in a row for trainer Todd Pletcher after winning a Grade II race here May 7. Also contending for Pletcher is Stanford and Blofeld, who “are horses that can adapt to different running styles depending upon the pace of the race.” Blofeld closed late at 9-1 odds to beat Stanford in the Gulfstream Park Handicap March 5. Stanford has improved as a 4-year old and won the Charlestown Classic wire-to-wire at 3-1 odds over favorite Donworth, who finished third. Donworth is a very big horse with tactical speed and now offered at a much bigger price.

Another long shot to keep an eye on is highly-rated and locally-stabled Upstart, who has nearly $1.5 million in earnings and is training very well with blinkers added and should be stalking the leaders. He won the Razorback Stakes (G3) in March and then had a disappointing trip in the Oaklawn Handicap in April, Finishing fifth just behind Blofeld.  

Met Mile, Race 9, Saturday, June 11 at Belmont Park

Post Position, Rider and Odds:

  1. El Kabeir, Manny Franco, 30-1
  2. Blofeld, John Velazquez, 10-1
  3. Donworth, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1
  4. Noble Bird, Julien Leparoux, 9-2
  5. Frosted, Joel Rosario, 7-2
  6. Upstart, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 20-1
  7. Stanford, Javier Castellano, 5-1
  8. Ami’s Flatter, Martin Garcia, 6-1
  9. Sloane Avenue, Florent Guroux, 15-1
  10. Tamarkuz, Luis Saez, 20-1
  11. Calbulator, Junior Alvarado, 10-1
  12. Anchor Down, Jose Ortiz, 12-1
  13. Marking, Jose Lezcano, 8-1



Fasig-Tipton July Schedule Tweaked

Due to an increase of horses cataloged, the July 12 selected yearling sale has been moved by Fasig-Tipton from July 12 to 10 AM EST on July 11.

“The continued growth of the July yearling catalog, coupled with the popularity of the July selected horses of racing age sale has prompted the schedule change,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning. “We’ll offer a quality group of horses of racing age on Monday evening as our opening act, and then the July selected yearling sale will take center stage the following morning.”

The 2015 yearling sale produced the largest median and average sale since 2007, which in turn led to an increased catalog for a third straight year.

“This year’s catalog is up in numbers, but just as importantly, boasts increased quality—including yearlings by current top-ranked sires Tapit, Uncle Mo, Curlin, Congrats, City Zip, and Malibu Moon,” said Browing.

The July sale counts grade I winners Birdatthewire, Dortmund, Noble Bird, and Street Fancy among its most recent graduates. It will be the first yearling sale of the summer and it is expected to be one of the highest ranked sales in North American by percentage of grade I winners, stakes winners from horses sold, and graded stakes winners.

You can view the catalogue online or through their Equineline app right now. Printed versions will be available by June 14. Horses of racing age sale nominations will be acceded through the end of June.

Nyquist Returns to Santa Anita

Nyquist Jogs 2-Miles at Pimlico Saturday Before Heading West

Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who suffered his first defeat in the Preakness Stakes, had a final workout last Saturday at Pimlico Race Course before shipping Sunday to trainer Doug O’Neil’s base at Santa Anita Park.

“He’s great this morning. We jogged two (miles) this morning and I need a new right arm. He’s full of energy and kind of dragged us around there and came back to the barn full of energy,” said O’Neill’s assistant trainer, Jack Sisterson, who accompanied Nyquist on the pony. “We’re happy with the way he went this morning.”

Since recovering from a fever and elevated white blood cell count following the Preakness and skipping the upcoming Belmont Stakes, Nyquist had been limited to walking the shedrow at Barn D behind the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico before returning with an easy jog on Thursday.

“We gave him a few extra days to recover,” O’Neill said. “The illness is behind him. He’s off all antibiotics. The last blood work was good.”

Nyquist, the Kentucky-bred colt by Uncle Mo, has been on the road since shipping to Gulfstream where he beat Mohaymen in the Florida Derby’s bi-coastal battle April 2. Following his Kentucky Derby win and third place finish in the Preakness, Nyquist now has eight wins from nine overall starts with earnings of $5,119,200.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has not announced the plans for Nyquist’s next race, but options for the summer include the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes on July 30 and the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 27. Also, Monmouth Park’s top race for 3-year-olds is the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 31. O’Neil could also elect to keep Nyquist closer to home and run him against older horses in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 20.

With continued good health ahead, Nyquist will definitely run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita November 5.

Divining Rod

Divining Rod Close To Comeback

It’s hard to remember the runner-ups to American Pharoah because that particular champion captured our attention so vividly. Divining Rod is one of those horses, having placed third at the Preakness Stakes in 2015. Overall, the now four-year old colt for Laei Stable is 2-1-5 in 9 attempts. His last outing was the only time he placed off the proverbial podium.

That race was the Smarty Jones, a grade-three stakes challenge which runs in late August at Prax in Pennsylvania. Consistency is key, especially for horse players who are looking for horses to build exotic bets around, or just secure a safe show bet. For most of last year, Divining Rod was that type of horse, but he came out of the Smarty Jones with some lingering problems.

Trainer Arnoud Delacour admitted that Divining Rod had endured some wear and tear over the course of a gruelling 2015 schedule that saw him take part in seven races and that workload caught up to him by the end of last summer. “We felt that he didn’t really run his race, so he went for a checkup at Rood and Riddle (Equine Hospital) in Kentucky with Dr. Bramlage. He found a little, little thing that needed some time off, just wear and tear that you get when you run hard races, especially when you’re on the Triple Crown trail. It’s tough on the horses,” Delacour noted. “There was a bunch of little stuff that needed to be addressed and he needed time off for that.”

It’s been nearly a year since Divining Rod has last seen the track and Delacour was quick to point out that he is as consistent as the days of the week. That’s why the trainer, along with his connections and horse palyers, are anticipating his return. “He’s very consistent. He’s a neat horse. I’m pretty excited to bring him back to competition. Also with age, he can be even better,” Delacour said. “He’s got the two-other-than condition, so I’ll probably try to bring him back in an allowance. There’s no point going into a hard race. It’s going to be almost a year off so we’ll find a good spot for him and take it from there.”

According to Delcaour, Divining Rod is aiming for a return during the summer and will likely aim towards stakes races in the fall. How hard he runs the four-year old son of Tapit remains to be seen, but it will be great to have this competitor back in action.

50-50 Chance Forever d’Oro Runs at Belmont

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Forever d’ora is under consideration to run the June 11 $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) following his May 29 maiden win at Belmont Park.

“We’ve got to get back to training the horse, but we’re tossing it around,” said Stewart. “I’m 50-50 on it right now.”

The half brother of graded stakes winners Forever Unbridled and Unbridled Forever, the homebred Forever d’Oro was 0-2 in his first two starts, coming in fifth place in each of his two maiden special weight races.

“I’ve always liked the horse,” said Stewart. “He’s a horse that got started a little late, but I thought he ran pretty well the first time. He’s a beautifully bred horse. Then he ran (on the undercard) Derby Day and just got in a lot of traffic in the race. Even though the race was a mile and an eighth, he never really got a chance to run.”

Things changed on a dime for Forever d’Oro in his third race, when he threw his maiden status to the curb in winning the 1 1/16-mile contest at Belmont.

“He broke kind of sideways and he was way, way back,” said Stewart. “He is a horse that can lay up close. He’s got a little bit of speed. He just didn’t get off good, I think, because of the way he was standing in the gate. But he really finished great. He got out in the middle of the track and really ran well. I think if he would’ve broke with the rest of them, he would’ve been spectacular in that race.”

Speaking of Forever Unbridled, she will race for the first time in eight weeks at the June 11 Ogden Phipps (gr. I).

Penn Oaks Preview

Biggest Day of Racing at Penn National Starts with the Penn Oaks

Rain showers could hit the track in Grantville, PA on Friday and Sunday, but Saturday’s biggest race day at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course looks good. Four stakes races are scheduled including Race 1, the $200,000 Penn Oaks. A field of seven sophomore fillies will take to the turf going 1-mile.

Pricedtoperfection is the lone graded-stakes winner in the field, and trainer Chad Brown looks for a repeat of her effort when she won the 1-mile Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream at 9-2 odds. He’s now the morning line favorite at 9-5 with Joel Rosario returning to ride after being aboard the winner January 30. A third place finish followed in the Memories of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct April 24, and she’ll try to come off the pace again as Brown defends his Oaks title following last year’s win with Strict Compliance.

Todd Pletcher-trained Sweet Victory is the second choice at 5-2 and enters off back-to-back wins including May 7 when she captured the 1 1/16 mile Honey Ryder at Gulfstream in her first try in stakes company. She was the fourth choice that day at 5-1 and closed for the win despite going wide throughout. She breezed four furlongs at Monmouth May 27 and jockey Javier Castello will try to ride her to another Sweet Victory.

Conquest Serenade is trainer Mark Casse’s choice here as his star filly Catch a Glimpse will try to beat the boys in the feature $500,000 Penn Mile. Conquest Serenade has won two of her last three races including last time out in allowance company May 6 at Churchill Downs. That race was 6 ½ furlongs on the dirt when she won on the lead as the 4-5 favorite. She broke her maiden the race prior at Keeneland going seven furlongs on the dirt, and now the daughter of Unbridled’s Song switches to the turf. Tough to support her at first asking going further on the turf, but her trainer remains confident.

“She’s a young filly, but has a lot of talent,” said Casse. “The Oaks will mark several firsts for her.  First stakes, first going long and first on grass. We think she is a wonderful filly and has trained on the well on the turf.”

Undefeated fillies Involuntary and Tippling Ways will try to score as longer shots, and Involuntary has the best shot at 8-1. She broke her maiden at first asking at Tampa Bay Downs April 8 and made it 2-for-2 May 20 with an impressive front-running score on the Pimlico turf as the 2-1 favorite against 13 rivals. She could run clear again here in her stakes debut.

The Penn Oaks also serves as one of the races in the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge Event, a year-long incentive competition comprised of 22 races worth more than $5 million purse money that offers bonuses such as waived entry fees at PNGI tracks the following year and a trip to the PNGI owned M Resort in Las Vegas

Post Time for Race 1, the Penn Oaks, is at 6:05 P.M. EST as the start of an all-stakes Pick 4 culminating with the Penn Mile.

Fillies 3YO, 1 Mile (Turf)

  1. Horse, Jockey, Odds, Trainer
  2. Tippling Ways, Angel Serpa, 15-1, Tim Woolley
  3. Conquest Serenade, Florent Geroux, 9-2, Mark E. Casse
  4. Outsider Art, Joe Bravo, 6-1, Jonathan E. Sheppard
  5. Pricedtoperfection, Joel Rosario, 9-5, Chad C. Brown
  6. Sweet Victory, Javier Castellano, 5-2, Todd A. Pletcher
  7. Lottie, Edgar S. Prado, 8-1, K. Carmouchie, Graham Motion
  8. Involuntary, Trevor McCarthy, 8-1, Arnaud Delacour


Stellar Wind ready for Vanity Stakes

Stellar Wind Ready To Take On Beholder

The Vanity Stakes is undoubtedly the most intriguing race this coming weekend. The one-mile dirt challenge hosted by Santa Anita Park will feature Beholder, a horse that is riding a seven-race win streak in to her 23rd competition. She is widely considered unbeatable at this point, but at least one horse – Stellar Wind – might be able to prove otherwise.

Beholder’s unreal record of 16-3-0 in 21 races is the stuff of legend and anyone who has seen the six-year old mare in action knows that she’s something special. Her connections are confident that she could beat the boys at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic which is her intended end goal this season. She was supposed to compete last year against American Pharoah but was held out due to a sudden fever.

Her races have included smaller fields because nobody sees the point in running against her. In the Adoration Stakes, the field touted just six competitors and nobody was close to Beholder at the finish line. The Vanity Stakes will feature an expected field of seven, and almost everyone expects this race to be nothing more than a formality for Beholder on route to the world championships.

But even her trainer, Richard Mandella, knows that the upcoming renewal of the Vanity Stakes will be so much more. “It’s a real race this time,” said Beholder’s trainer. That’s because of Stellar Wind, perhaps the only racemare in the country capable of taking Beholder on in the female classes (the argument for Songbird is there too).

John Sadler, who trains Stellar Wind, is fairly confident about the Vanity Stakes but knows that there’s a looming shadow competing alongside his prized champion. “We’re in a route race and there’s seven horses, so the rail is ok,” Sadler commented. “I’d have preferred post three or four, but the post is what it is. The first race back, we wanted to run at home. There’s a lot of things we like about the race. Except Beholder.”

Stellar Wind herself last raced at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where she was caught at the finish line by Stopchargingmaria in an upset loss. Sadler and the Hronis Racing ownership team remain committed to her despite this, and there’s definite justification. The four-year old is now 5-1-1 in just 8 races total.

While there will be five other entrants in the 2016 Vanity Stakes, the larger sentiment is that this is a two-horse race. An outside shooting speedster like Taris is programmed to tackle a dirt mile extremely well, so she’s also a top consideration. But the showdown remains Stellar Wind and Beholder. Is the former ready to take down one of the best champions in all of thoroughbred racing? We’ll find out on Saturday.

For the record, I wouldn’t bet against Beholder but I would definitely stack her with Stellar Wind in a box no matter the odds.