Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Met Mile

For horse players, Memorial Day means the Metropolitan Handicap or "Met Mile" at Belmont Park, the first race in New York's "Handicap Triple Crown" that also includes the Brooklyn Handicap and the Suburban Handicap. Only four horses in history have won all three races in one given year, the last being Fit to Fight in 1984. Unlike all but a few US tracks, Belmont's "Big Sandy" is configured for a one-turn mile, which makes it more of a dash than a route. This year's 118th edition of the race was made up of a competitive field of eleven older horses.

Initially, Nick Zito trainee Morning Line, winner of the Grade I Carter Handicap in April at Aqueduct was projected to be the favorite for the Met Mile but he developed a tenderness in one foot and his nomination was withdrawn. His absence made the race even more competitive. Only two of the entrants had failed to have a graded stakes victory on their resume'. Luke warm post-time 3-1 favorite Tizway, who had won the G-2 Kelso at Aqueduct in October, drew the outside 11 spot in the gate next to Florida-based Tackleberry, a 4-year-old carrying co-highweight of 120 lbs. and running with Lasix for the first time in his fourteenth race. Dogwood Stable's Aikenite, winner of the seven furlong Commonwealth at Keeneland and the Churchill Downs Handicap at the same distance in his two previous starts, was also to carry 120 lbs. from the fourth stall in the gate. Steve Asmussen's millionaire 5 year-old Haynesfield, winner of Belmont's Jockey Club Gold Cup in October was second in bettor preference in the eighth spot.

Soaring Empire, Stormy's Majesty, Rodman, Caixa Eletronica, Yawanna Twist, Ibboyee, and Kensei, all seasoned vets, made up the rest of the field.

When the gates opened it was no surprise to see the speedy Tackleberry scamper to the lead from the outside, closely tracked by the adjacent Tizway and rider Rajiv Maragh. These two set the pace through decent fractions of 23.17 for the first quarter mile, 45.57 for the half and a blistering 1:08.66 for the six furlongs. That was enough for Tackleberry, who rapidly faded, finishing 9th. Tizway kept driving for the wire, covering the mile in 1:32.90, a fraction off the track record and extending his lead over the field, with the exception of 36-1 longshot Rodman, who closed impressively to take second and make the trifecta a $2400 bonanza. Caixa Eletronica settled for third and Aikenite managed to salvage fouth.

Tizway is the product of a mating between two-time Breeder's Cup Classic winner and increasingly influential sire Tiznow and the Dayjur mare Bethany and was purchased at the 2006 Keeneland Sept. sale for $140,000. His Met Mile victory brings his lifetime total earnings to $909,274 and gives him an automatic berth in the Breeder's Cup Mile at Churchill Downs later this year plus $10,000 in expense money for the trip.

It's often said that the most difficult thing in the world to do is pick the horse that will finish SECOND in a race. Here is an example of that:

This ticket shows a little more prescience:

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