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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


So it’s Independence Day, not Memorial Day, but it does a racing soul good to see the Met Mile once again as the lynchpin on a holiday racing program in New York.

When I saw an overnight, I was initially disappointed that only eight horses were entered. Surely, the prestige and stud value for potential winners should rate a limit field.

Then I looked closer. Half of the eight runners are Grade 1 winners; two have won graded stakes, and two others are on the make. No wonder racing Twitter has been on tilt–but in a good way.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the field from the rail out:

1–NETWORK EFFECT (8-1): After winning a Florida-bred stakes, he finished second to Vekoma in the G1 Carter, although a zip code farther back. He’s won a one-turn mile, goes for Team Chad/Irad, but this is too much horse race for this young man.

2-VEKOMA (5-2): Transition from three-year-old to four and first start since finishing 13th in the Derby? No problem. The Blue Grass winner returned with a vengeance, taking an overnight stakes with such authority that George Weaver, in the midst of a career year, opted for the G1 Carter off an eye-popping 7-1/4 length romp in 1:21 flat. Will four weeks rest be enough rest off such a huge effort? It’s why the run races.

3-McKINZIE (2-1) The early line favorite arguably was best in the 2019 Met when beaten 3/4s of a length by Sprint champion and Horse of the Year finalist Mitole following a rough trip in which he was trapped inside and among rivals, shaking clear much too late. Multi-Grade 1 winner has won half his 16 starts with six exacta finishes. The one-turn mile hits him squarely between the eyes.

4-HOG CREEK HUSTLE (30-1) One of four Grade 1 winners, albeit the 7-furlong Woody Stephens which fits his sprinting profile. But he’s making his third start off a layup, comes into this off graduating distances, including a wide, too-late rally placing in a loaded NX3 optional claimer at Churchill in which the third finisher came back to win.

5-CODE OF HONOR (3-1): Comes in off a measured, better-than-looks score G3 Westchester score which gave the impression of a perfect prep for something bigger and better; like this. The time was respectable, there was plenty left in the tank, and his only official loss at Belmont in four tries was a runnerup finish in the 2018 G1 Champagne. Has worked thrice for Shug since his season’s debut, including a bullet five furlongs, and is well posted with Johnny.

6-ENDORSED (10-1): Very likely to be the wise-guy horse in this match given a forced premature move when second in the Westchester, holding extremely well but ultimately beaten by Code of Honor. Has an excellent turn of foot, a wide draw helps his cause, as does an additional three pound weight pull from ‘Code’ and getting eight from the favorite, 125 vs. 117. Anticipating different tactics from Joel here.

7-MR FREEZE (8-1): Probably doesn’t get the overall respect he deserves, having won two graded stakes and placing in six consecutive graded events since Churchill’s Ack Ack last September. Five year old Dale Romans trainee reunites with winning rider Manny Franco, owns tactical speed, is suited by dynamics, a wide draw, the trip [(3) 2-1-0] and gets five pounds from the highweighted favorite.

8-WARRIOR’S CHARGE (12-1): Late developer improved late in his three year old year and this year was the game winner of the G3 Razorback prior to a game placing to By My Standards in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. Fast and game, his PPs indicate he very likely prefers two turns to one.

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the writeup on the race itself; I felt the same regarding the field size at first look, but then realized the quality of the field lent more than sufficient respect that the Met Mile deserves.

    This is a race that never should have been handed the indignity of being transformed into an opening act on the Belmont card, and I sincerely hope that it is returned next year to its rightful place as the Memorial Day main event. It is a race that – aside from the Kentucky Derby – is unmatched in prestige, and has no peer in significance to breeding. For it to have been Dismissed as an appetizer is unthinkable.

    As much as I love Saratoga – and making 3 of my 5 day weekend trips up to it each summer – I am bitter that Saratoga has been handed more and more of Belmont’s great races. I know 2020 is a different animal, but I still wish the Peter Pan was going on Belmont’s closing weekend or something. I will never get used to the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Woodward being run somewhere other than Belmont.

    1. If it were possible, I would agree 1000% Doc, but will have to settle for 100 on every point made.

      Yes, 2020 is a different animal. We can only hope 2021 will be better–once the political morons who thought Covid-19 was a hoax, or those who just couldn’t wait to go topless to some bar and party, or officials who know nothing about disease and motivated only by keeping their sorry asses in their Legislative seats–finally grow up, read, pay attention to science and do their damn jobs. Sorry for the rant.


      Scared Sh..less in South Florida

  2. John: I don’t think that there is any question that the Metropolitan Handicap is on the very short list of favorite races for NY racing fans. My first was Forego’s second of his back to back Met wins in 1977. As we all know, the Big Guy never disappointed his fans, even as Tommy Trotter tried to load him up with crushing weights.
    Nevertheless, I do not think that running it on Belmont Day has diminished its standing. Unfortunately, we will never have 50,000 patrons show up on Memorial Day again-as that many were in attendance in 77. Yes, we will never see another Conquistador Cielo win the Met and Belmont within 5 days, but, I don’t think we will ever see another horse win any two stakes in 5 days, let alone the Met and Belmont ( or any trainer win 5 Belmonts in a row-thank you Mr. Stephens). However, the Met Mile, on a typical Belmont Day, will attract a much larger handle than it would on a Memorial Day or a July 4th, and handle is the key metric in modern times.

  3. Fram, like Doc, truer words were never spoken. I’ve written often about my first day at a Thoroughbred track, Memorial Day, 1960, Kelso, et al, I think there were 70,000 in attendance at Aqueduct that afternoon.

    I can think of two other stakes horses. Do believe a sprinter named No Bias came back either the next day or day after to win two stakes–believe it was Belmont–and Rick Dutrow had a New York bred [forgot the name] win a state-bred stakes on a Thursday in Saratoga and came back to win a graded stakes on Saturday.

    The framed horsemen, despite perjured testimony from a state investigator, remains on the sidelines as the NYS Gaming Commission, many Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointees, abdicated their responsibilities. Hope I live to see the day when justice is served once again.

  4. John: Courtesy of your old buddy, Nick Kling, who wrote about Rick’s proclivities with short returns. I present you with El Real Madrid. He is not the stakes horse that you mentioned above but his exploits at Saratoga in 2010 deserve honorable mention. El Real Madrid, trained by Rick, finished second on 8/18/10, then won on 8/23/10, and then won again on 8/26/10. That’s 3 races in 8 days with two wins. Not too bad. And, I agree with you-Rick has served his time-he should be able to apply for his license again.

    1. Found out the name of the horse I referred to of Rick’s yesterday, Willie Beamon, won the Albany on Wednesday and back on Saturday for the pre-runner of the G1 Allen Jerkens…

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