2015 Metropolitan Handicap Preview
The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series gets underway in the United States on Saturday, June 6 with the Metropolitan Handicap, or as it is better known, the Met Mile.
The Met Mile will be run at one mile around one turn at Belmont Park. A field of 10 horses have been entered in this $1,250,000 race. The Grade 1 event is carded as the 9th race on the Belmont Stakes undercard with an approximate post time of 4:49 PM Eastern Time.
The winner of the Met Mile will have a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile that is to be held at Keeneland on October 30 and 31 later this year. .
1. Private Zone (4-1 ML) – He has been very good since late 2014. After fourth place finish in his turf debut, he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh here at Belmont, was third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct by 5 lengths. In 2015, he just missed winning the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and then easily won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day. From this spot at the rail, he will be gunning for the lead and saying catch me if you can. He is two for two at Belmont.
2. Bay of Plenty (20-1 ML) – After breaking his maiden in March 2014 by 7 1/4 lengths, he won a first level allowance race here at Belmont in May 2014 by 9 1/4 lengths. He came back in October to clear the second level allowance with a 2 3/4 lengths win. He ran second in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap before a six month break between races. He came back to win a third level allowance race and he has plenty of speed to burn. However, there is plenty of other speed for him to contend with here. It is worth noting that he is 3 for 3 at Belmont.
3. Noble Moon (30-1 ML) – He has seen plenty of graded stakes action since his two year campaign in 2013. He has struggled in nearly all of those graded stakes races including several large defeats behind some horses entered in here. He will have pace to run at in this spot, but here appears to be up against it here.
4. Tonalist (5-2 ML) – It was 364 days ago that Tonalist was winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes en route to denying California Chrome the Triple Crown. Since then he has two victories in five subsequent races including the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and his latest race in the Grade 3 Westchester. It is clear that he likes the Belmont surface with a perfect 4 for 4 record. He should have plenty of pace to run at and is a deserving favorite.
5. Tamarkuz (15-1 ML) – He has been racing in Dubai since 2014. His last four races have all resulted in victories including two Group 3 races and one Group 2 race. He will probably be racing midpack in this race and should be in a good spot. It is tough to get a read on him with his international form and is probably a cut below the best.
6. Wicked Strong (6-1 ML) – He was part of the 2014 Triple Crown chase with a duo of fourth place finishes in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. He ran well at Saratoga before he clipped heels in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup to end his 2014 campaign. His two starts in 2015 have left a lot to be desired with a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct. He will be able to come off the pace, but the question is whether he is good enough.
7. Bayern (7-2 ML) – After an incredible three year old year season capped off with a win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2014, he ran a dud to start 2015. He broke poorly in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes and was no factor during the running of the race. He has worked well since then and had only 1 gate work in the immediate aftermath of the terrible seasonal debut. If he breaks well, he will have plenty of company on the lead.
8. Pants On Fire (15-1 ML) – He ran third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2014 before finishing third in the ungraded Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream. In 2015, he won his seasonal debut in the ungraded Sir Shackleton before finishing third behind Private Zone in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. He too will be coming from behind and the ceiling appears to be an underneath finish in the trifecta or superfecta, but he will have good value.
9. Honor Code (6-1 ML) – He has run only one bad race in his career, but that just happened to be his latest race. On the Kentucky Oaks undercard, he ran fifth in the Grade 2 Alysheba and did not seem to fire with a moderate pace at best. He will be coming from out of the clouds here and he should have enough speed to set it up for him. His best value would be at no less than 5-1 given the large amount of ground he needs to cover.
10. Kobe’s Back (20-1 ML) – He came back from a 7 month break to finish second in the Grade 2 San Carlos in March before shipping East and running in the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland. In that race, he was able to come from off the pace to win by three quarters of a length. He has not run since then and is another that will be coming from way out of it. He seems to be an underneath horse at best.
This race is full of speed and closers so it should be easy to decipher, right? Well, not quite. #4 Tonalist is the morning line favorite and loves Belmont in addition to having the right running style. Beyond him, however, it is not clear. #8 Pants On Fire is an intriguing long shot to pick up the pieces and #9 Honor Code could bounce back from his poor effort last time out to possibly win or at least hit the exacta. #1 Private Zone has shown the ability to hang on for the win after setting a hot pace and could hang around to hit the board if he is passed. The wildcard in all this is #7 Bayern. If he breaks well it could be tough to beat him, but if he fails to break again he will probably not make an impact.
Top selection – #4 Tonalist
2nd selection – #9 Honor Code
3rd selection – #8 Pants On Fire
4th selection – #1 Private Zone
Check back on Saturday evening to see a recap of the Grade 1 Met Mile.