The Winner Of The Met Mile Is…

The Grade 1, $500,000 dollar Metropolitan Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday is an excellent race featuring a group of quality sprinters and routers competing in a one-turn mile.   Eight entries are set to run, and it is not as easy as it appears to handicap this years edition.

The Met Mile is Race 9 on a card of 11, with a scheduled Post Time of 5:50.  Here then is a look at the field:

 1.  NETWORK EFFECT  [8-1]  Trainer: Chad Brown.  Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.  Exhibited promise early in his career with runner-up finishes in the 2018 Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2).  The shine faded however, with a long layoff and non-threatening 8th in the 2019 Cigar Mile (G1).  Beating this bunch seems too big a task here.

2.  VEKOMA  [5-2]  Trainer: George Weaver.  Jockey: Javier Castellano.  This 4-year-old owns a nice record with five Wins out of seven starts.  His only clunker was the 2019 Kentucky Derby, when he faded to 12th in the slop.  Before that, he Won the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and ran 3rd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).   Post #2 is a slight concern, as he Won his two races this year while traveling outside.

3.  MCKINZIE  [2-1]  Trainer: Bob Baffert.  Jockey: Mike Smith.  This 5-year-old horse has eight Wins in 16 starts, as well as six runner-up placings.  Recently he Won the Triple Bend Stakes (G2) by 1 ½ lengths at Santa Anita with a closing move from last.  In the 2019 Met Mile (G1), he closed from 8th to pick up 2nd place behind MITOLE.  He is an obvious contender.  But, as with most Baffert/Smith connected rides, the price is low.

4.  HOG CREEK HUSTLE  [30-1]  Trainer: Vickie Foley.  Jockey: Jose Ortiz.  On paper, it is hard to make a case for this closer.  He Won the 2019 Woody Stephens Stakes (G1), as he benefited from a total pace collapse.  Yet now he rides a seven-race losing streak.  Four of those losses occurred this year.  It seems unlikely he can out-kick the other quality closers here, let alone mow down the top speed.

5.  CODE OF HONOR  [3-1]  Trainer: Shug McGaughey.  Jockey: John Velazquez.  After finishing 3rd in the 2019 Kentucky Derby he went on to capture races such as the Travers Stakes (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).  He ran a disappointing 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  But he took a break after that failure and came back last month, to Win the local Westchester Stakes (G3).  He seems ready to fire his best.  From a pace scenario standpoint, he could use some help up front.

6.  ENDORSED  [10-1]  Trainer: William Mott.  Jockey: Joel Rosario.  He finished 2nd to CODE OF HONOR in the Westchester Stakes (G3) by a half length.  Prior to that race he could only manage two optional Claiming Wins at Gulfstream and Oaklawn, as well a 5th place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) this year.   Would have preferred to see another decent Graded Stakes effort before trusting him here.

7.  MR FREEZE  [8-1]  Trainer: Dale Romans.  Jockey: Manuel Franco.  Earlier in the year he finished 2nd to MUCHO GUSTO in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Next time out he Won the Gulfstream Park Mile, drawing away by three lengths.  He has speed,  but he will need to chase WARRIORS’S CHARGE in the initial stages or settle farther back and find a way to out-kick quality horses such as MCKINZIE and CODE OF HONOR late.

8.  WARRIOR’S CHARGE  [12-1]  Trainer: Brad Cox.  Jockey: Florent Geroux.  This speedy 4-year-old colt set the pace in the 2019 Preakness Stakes and faded to 4th late, 2 ½ lengths behind WAR OF WILL in a credible effort for his first Stakes race.
Unfortunately, he went on the shelf after that performance and did not appear again until December, where he took an optional Claimer at Fair Grounds. He followed up the Winning return by wiring the field in the Razorback Handicap (G3).  He will outbreak MR FREEZE and reach the front.  Then it’s only a matter of whether he has enough class to outrun MCKINZIE and CODE OF HONOR in the lane.  His price will be right, so it’s worth taking a shot to find out if he can wire the field.

Conclusion:  MCKINZIE and CODE OF HONOR stand out as the two best horses in this race.  However, the best horse does not always Win and closers are subject to traffic problems.

Given the cutback in distance and the lack of another true pacesetter signed up, WARRIOR’S CHARGE can upset in the Met Mile. He only needs a clean break and the lead.

The Play:  All three of those horses are must use in multi-race Wagers.

For the race itself the Daily Racing Blog will do a Trifecta Key, using #8 WARRIOR’S CHARGE as our top (key) horse with #2 VEKOMA, #3 MCKINZIE, #5 CODE OF HONOR, and #7 MR FREEZE underneath.  The ticket will read: #8 with 2-3-5-7 with 2-3-5-7.  We will also bet #8 to Win.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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