Met Mile Preview
Aikenite, Tackleberry top weighted in wide-open Met Mile
Despite the late withdrawal of potential favorite Morning Line (Tiznow) from Monday's $500,000 Metropolitan H. (G1), the traditional one-mile Memorial Day feature at Belmont Park attracted a field of 11 in what is annually one of the best betting races of the season. And this year's edition is unusually tough as a case could be made for just about everyone.
Entering on a hot streak is AIKENITE (Yes It's True), whose past record of futility in graded stakes is quickly being relegated to memory after back-to-back scores in the Churchill Downs S. (G2) and Commonwealth S. (G2). Trainer Todd Pletcher hopes to have the Dogwood Stable colorbearer ready for either the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) or Dirt Mile (G1) in November.
TACKLEBERRY (Montbrook) has won eight of 13 lifetime, including three straight during the Gulfstream Park meeting over the winter. The skein included the Sunshine Millions Classic, Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2) and Gulfstream Park H. (G2), but the Florida-bred gelding weakened to fourth when taking his show on the road to West Virginia for the Charles Town Classic (G3) last time. The Luis Olivares owned-and-trained four-year-old will add Lasix for the first time in the Met Mile.
HAYNESFIELD (Speightstown), victorious last year in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and runner-up in the Cigar Mile H. (G1), tracked a fast pace in last month's Westchester S. (G3) and wound up fourth in his worst finish in seven tries over Belmont's main strip. Hero of that hour, by a comfortable three lengths, was CAIXA ELETRONICA (Arromanches), claimed for $62,500 in his previous start by Pletcher for owner Mike Repole. Scratched from the Westchester was SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker), winner of the Hal's Hope S. (G3) in early January before runner-up finishes to Tackleberry in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and Gulfstream Park 'Cap.
Not to be overlooked is TIZWAY (Tiznow), third to Quality Road in last year's Met Mile and later winner of the course-and-distance Kelso H. (G2) during the fall meet. The James Bond charge quietly earned third money in both the Gulfstream Park H. and Charles Town Classic to begin the year, and could be sitting on a strong race following several strong drills at Saratoga. Grade 3 winner RODMAN (Malibu Moon) emerged from a 14-month layoff in February and won second time back in the April 14 Irish Tower S. at Aqueduct.
Expected to go off at longer odds are IBBOYEE (Medallist), whose late surge in the Churchill Downs fell a half-length short; Discovery H. (G3) winner STORMY'S MAJESTY (Stormy Atlantic), winner of the Noble Nashua S. for New York-breds in his season debut; and the capable veterans YAWANNA TWIST (Yonaguska) and KENSEI (Mr. Greeley), third and fourth, respectively, in the April 9 Carter H. (G1) at the Big A most recently.
The gray WINTER MEMORIES (El Prado [Ire]) will be a strong favorite to win for a fourth time in five lifetime outings in the $150,000 Sands Point S. (G2), a 1 1/16-mile test for three-year-old fillies over the inner turf. Up in time to take the Appalachian S. (G3) by a neck in her 2011 debut last month at Keeneland, the Jim Toner pupil took the Miss Grillo S. (G3) on the Widener turf last fall before suffering her lone setback in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2).
Appalachian third-placer PARTING WORDS (Artie Schiller) and Herecomesthebride S. (G3) runner-up MYSTICAL STAR (Ghostzapper) look the toughest of her Winter Memories' five rivals entered for turf, though the Christophe Clement-trained NAPLES BAY (Giant's Causeway) has won both career starts including an allowance over subsequent Edgewood S. winner Diva Ash (Tapit).
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