Arguably the most important one-turn race in the U.S., the Met Mile has brought us some spectacular Memorial Day performances over the years. From Holy Bull and Honour And Glory as 3-year-olds to Ghostzapper’s remarkable comeback run as a 5-year-old, the race tests the stamina of a sprinter and the versatility of a router. While this year’s field doesn’t seem to have any standouts, there are several different ways to go in terms of picking a winner. Let’s check it out. –Brian
Accredit: Wet-track specialist has proven to be a quality claim for Maker and Ramsey and he sure looked good wiring the sloppy Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day. But the track played very kindly to front-runners in sprints that day and he really took the brunt of it in here with this inside draw. With his early speed he’ll be forced to break running so he doesn’t lose position, and that’s going to have him eyeballing a few others early. If the track comes up wet then just maybe he can keep going, but the stretch to a mile and the other speed signed on have him in for a long day at the office.
Smooth Air: Classy veteran has never really gotten his just due, but a look at his record will show that he’s staring at $1 million in earnings in the near future. His win in the GP Handicap—his first run at a mile–might have been his best race to date, so you know he comes in here in career form. Figures to sit a dream trip right off the speed and then make a move on the far turn, and that should have him at a big tactical advantage over the closers. With Mr. Fantasy and Bribon taking a lot of money, you could get a fair price on this underrated runner. Major player.
Famous Patriot: Picks a pretty daunting spot to try and get his first career graded stakes win, but at least he’s 2-for-2 over the local strip. With that being said, this is a monumental step up in class, even with the overall quality of the field being a bit down this year. With his affinity for the course and distance (2-for-3), he could potentially spice up a superfecta, but it’s hard to envision him cracking the top three.
Imperial Council: The first of a pair of 3-year-olds, and take note that if Shug has him in the starting gate, it’s a huge sign of confidence. Looked great winning his seasonal debut at one-turn down at Gulfstream and then just couldn’t bridge the gap on the Triple Crown trail. So maybe the two-turn thing was his gig this spring? Quite possible. And it’s not like he was running poorly against some nice sophomores; Charitable Man may be second-choice in the Belmont and I Want Revenge was the morning-line Derby favorite. So instead of forging on, Shug regroups, cuts back and takes a big shot in a race begging for a fresh new face to step up. Don’t sell this guy too short.
Riley Tucker: Seemed to find himself on Derby Day with a powerful allowance run, but it did come over a sloppy track where he got loose early. Speed held well in sprints that day (see Accredit) and as nice as that run was, it’s really been a lot more hype than performance in this corner. If you believe he’s a better horse now than the one who disappointed more often than not last year, then you’ll get a nice price, but with other speed signed on, we’ll side against.
The Roundhouse: Was flying late down the center of the track in the CD Handicap and while he was no threat to Accredit, it was a solid effort against the grain of the course. Now all he has to do is improve about 7 lengths and win one of the most prestigious races in the country. Point being, it’s a tall task, and while he’s seemingly going in the right direction, he’s never run a race that would come close to winning this type of event. If the pace gets too heated early he can be a stretch threat, but a win seems a bit out of reach.
Ready’s Echo: Made a nice return to the races at Keeneland when he beat up on an overmatched group in an entry-level allowance. The waters get quite a bit deeper in here and while he did run third in the Belmont last year, he has never come close to running a race capable of winning this. While he should move forward off that seasonal debut, it’s hard to see him spotting the field 15 lengths early and then running them down at the end.
Mr. Sidney: Grade I Maker’s Mark Mile winner on the turf tries the dirt and why the heck not? There’s no one in here that should have him blinking when he lines up in the starting gate. And with a pedigree like his (Storm Cat-Tomisue’s Delight), you could make a case that he should be even better on dirt. That remains to be seen, but he should make his presence felt and has enough tactical speed to keep the leaders in his sights early and get the jump on the closers late. The price should be fair so if none of the other dirt runners do it for you, there’s nothing wrong with swinging away here.
My Pal Charlie: Midwesterner has done some pretty good work in an under-the-radar type of career. His second behind Accredit in the CD Handicap was huge; he hit the gate at the start, was mired in traffic and only got out late to close a ton of ground. And don’t forget he won the Super Derby and was a close fourth in the BC Dirt Mile last year, so we know he fits with this kind. There’s a good chance he’ll get overlooked in the wagering as well with some better known runners from big name connections, so with an overlaid price in mind, we’ll tab him for the win.
Mr. Fantasy: The second 3-year-old in the field looked good running off with the Withers last month at Aqueduct over today’s distance, and he drew very well in here. Brings an abundance of speed to the table, but note he doesn’t have to be on the lead. NY-bred got a huge break in the Withers when favorite This Ones For Phil endured a nightmare trip, and the other three lined up that day weren’t exactly world-beaters. The other issue is price, and these McLaughlin-West Point runners never seem to offer fair value at the window, so don’t be shocked if you look up and see this guy favored with about 5 minutes to post. He’s no doubt in with a chance, but with the expected short price and tall task, we’ll play against him tomorrow.
Bribon: Capable of winning this race by 5 lengths or running a non-threatening seventh as the favorite. You just need to cross your fingers and hope you get the good version of this classy runner. He’s done some good work at Belmont and at a mile in his career, and he simply blew the Westchester open turning for home. And when you win off the pace on Opening Day like he did, you’re doing something right. But he’ll be in the 3-1 range and you just have a hard time trusting this guy. Respect his chances, but be willing to play it under the impression that Mr. Hyde shows up in here.
Driven By Success: Know him early, that’s for sure. State-bred has a ton of early zip and probably could make the point if Dominguez chooses. He’s looked good beating up on his friends in a few state-bred races, but he’s come up wanting in both graded stakes attempts. Add fuel to the splits but can’t imagine he’s around when the real running begins.
Runforthedoe: Those on the East Coast might not be familiar with Paulo Lobo, but he knows what to do with a top-class horse. The man that brought us Farda Amiga and Pico Central, who won this race in 2004, and looks to have another nice one on his hands. Fine second to the streaking It’s A Bird in the 9-furlong Oaklawn Handicap, which should set him up just perfectly for this one. He’s got to improve and faces the toughest test of his career but he drew favorably and should be a great price. Upset special.