Three-year-old classics notwithstanding, it is without argument the Race of 2012.
We’re not about to dare compare any of the “Big Four” to previous Met heroes like Tom Fool or Kelso or Forego--not at this point of their careers anyway—but this is one of the more competitive renewals I have seen.
And that goes back to 1961, my first day ever at a Thoroughbred track, Aqueduct by the Sea, when the mighty Kelso spotted a good miler by the name of All Hands 16 pounds and nailed him in deep stretch, sealing my life’s destiny in the process.
One could only hope that when, from the rail out, To Honor And Serve (120 pounds) meets Shackleford (119), and Caleb’s Posse (121), and Jackson Bend (121), the Big Four winner will have won a modern classic.
Almost never have I seen a scenario when a handicapper can make a very strong argument for any of the Big Four to win. Even their best Equiform figures come up as a virtual dead heat.
The Met Mile is the anchor leg of another “Big Four,” an All Stakes $500,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Belmont Park featuring four graded stakes, three of them Grade 1.
And don’t allow the small fields to fool you. There’s not a gimme in the sequence, no matter how short the early line favorite’s odds.
On Saturday, we were lucky and prescient enough to provide the HRI faithful with a $584 return on their $50 investment at the 50-Cent level. On Monday, we either will run that total up or give some of the winnings back.
Race 7 G2 Sands Point: With divisional leading Dayatthespa enjoying a break, we’re left with major contenders Somali Lemonade (1-1), Regalo Mia (3-1) and Firehouse Red (6-1). The favorite is the most accomplished, has earned top figures with consistency and is proven over the course.
Regalo Mia has a big late kick that might overcome any perceived lack of pace; totally against the dynamic at Keeneland and trainer Michelle Nihei, having a solid season, reaches out for Javier Castellano. Firehouse Red ships in off career best effort for Team Jones/Rosie; Jones 31% efficient in graded stakes last 72 starters.
Race 8 G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap: (Very good to see there are still some handicaps left!) Awesome Maria (4-5) is just that, returning with good spacing to repeat her 2011 Phipps title.
It’s Tricky (2-1), meanwhile, enters off New Pace Top in 7-furlong G2 Distaff; 3-for-4 at the trip and 1-for-1 over Big Sandy. Loses Roman but Eddie Castro really gets along with this filly. She’s All In (6-1) has come to hand at 5 and is getting 9 and 7 pounds, respectively, from the favorites.
Race 9 G1 Acorn Stakes: Contested (7-5) is 3-for-3 on dirt for Bullet Bob, including G3 Eight Belles at Churchill; boasts final fastest figure and sharp local breeze but draws pole and in this off huge Double Top (pace and final figures).
On Fire Baby (5-2) was victimized by indecisive handling and speed-favoring wet conditions; figures to run late given suitable turnback. Aubby K (3-1) was most impressive winning 3-year-old debut; given recovery time off top figure score and is well drawn but will need to handle significant class and distance rise.
Race 10 G1 Met Mile: To Honor And Serve (3-1) won his Westchester prep with disdainful ease; 3-for-3 at the trip and 2-for-2 at Belmont. Pole position no bargain in this matchup. Shackleford raced very well in both recent starts; maintains top form given recent drill and benefits from switch to Velazquez.
Caleb’s Posse was unlucky in both starts this year, beaten by cleverly handed perfect trip Jackson Bend in G1 Carter; has worked brilliantly for this and expected honest pace can make the difference. Jackson Bend wants to beat you, been training very well at Oklahoma training track but hasn’t proven as effective at Big Sandy.
50-Cent Pick 4 Play: 3, 5, 8 with 2, 3, 4 with 1, 3, 6 with 1, 2, 3 COST $40.50
50-Cent Pick 4 Saver/Optimizer: 3, 5 with 2, 4 with 3, 4 with 1, 2, 3, 6 COST $16