If there’s an American graded stakes race that is more interesting year in and year out than the Met Mile then I’m unsure I’ve located such an affair. Each year you get a terrific mixture of sprinters attempting to negotiate that important 8th furlong and routers cutting back to achieve glory in a race that notoriously looks terrific in a sale catalogue.
This year’s group is undoubtedly headlined by Quality Road, the Donn Handicap winner who was once considered among the favorites for the 2009 Kentucky Derby. I’ve never completely espoused the theory that this colt is a miler but he’s proven it is certainly a distance he enjoys as evidenced by his Hal’s Hope and Fountain of Youth victories. After the fiasco before the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year he was re-routed to two early season races at Gulfstream and that basically never gave him a break. Thus, the 113 day layoff he enters this event off of was by design and has him positioned to become a serious older horse this year. In fact, a win in this race could precede engagements in the Whitney, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup before another try in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Chief among Quality Road’s challengers today is Warrior’s Reward. The Carter (G1) winner is coming off a narrow miss in the Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard and returns to the distance at which he broke his maiden in his debut. He will be re-united with jockey Calvin Borel because Julien Leparoux is currently injured and we all know a thing or two about Borel’s ability to get a horse home from off the pace. What will it take for Warrior’s Reward to upset the big son of Elusive Quality? He’s going to need the pace to be very hot and to enjoy a clean trip. The distance is certainly not beyond his scope and you can count on him to be moving late. His record at a mile or less on fast dirt is 6 starts, 4 wins, 2 seconds, so this is his game.
The pace in the Met Mile should be attended by a couple of entrants in here, including #2 TIZWAY, #5 KENSEI, the aforementioned Quality Road, and recent Westchester winner #8 LE GRAND CRU. None have the type of blazing speed we’ve seen in this race from horses like Congaree, Commentator, and Forest Danger, but they can mix it up enough to ensure a solid tempo. No matter what result we see this is an interesting group with one of racing’s shining stars at the moment.
As far as the some of the other graded stakes throughout the country today, here’s who I’ll be betting:
SANDS POINT – Check the Label is coming off a nice win at Keeneland where she enjoyed a perfect trip but she should once again receive a positive pace setup today.
OUIJA BOARD – It is going to be very tough to down Wasted Tears in here as she enters off of consecutive wire-to-wire wins against much tougher competition.
LONE STAR PARK HANDICAP – I’ve been waiting for Redding Colliery to come back after his 3rd place finish in the Charles Town Classic. He’ll have to answer questions about whether he can win from off the pace but if he runs back to either of his last two races he’ll win this race.
HONEYMOON – In the Slips was given some time as she skipped the Senorita at Hollywood after finishing a somewhat dull third in the Providencia. She now returns to the site of her North American debut where she ran a strong second in the Miesque. She should be in position to turn the tables on City to City this afternoon.
SHOEMAKER MILE – The race flow appears as if it’s going to be in Gallant Son’s favor. He benefited from a perfect setup in the Inglewood last time out and it looks like Mr. Gruff and Compari are going to mix it up in the early stages.
Good luck and enjoy the racing on this great holiday! Keep in your thoughts all veterans who have gone before us. See you Wednesday as we begin to look at the Belmont Stakes! Until then, here’s one of Quality Road’s biggest wins in his brief career, the 2009 Florida Derby: