- Five graded stakes races highlight Saturday’s Belmont Park card in New York
- The grade one Metropolitan Handicap is a Breeders Cup “Win and You’re in” race
- See odds and picks for all of the big races at Belmont within the story below
New York racing fans often are dreaming of Saratoga this time of year. The Sport of King summer oasis upstate opens July 16th. However, because of COVID-19 the industry was shut down for a period of time, and that means many of the big races from over a month of cancelled programs can be run now. Saturday at Belmont Park there are five graded stakes including the Met Mile.
The Metropolitan Handicap has been run since 1892, and for the last several years has occurred on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Before that, it was a staple of Memorial Day Weekend. This year it is a Breeders Cup “Win and You’re In” event with the winner earning a spot in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile.
The field taking on the one turn mile includes Travers Stakes winner Code of Honor, the red hot Vekoma, and Whitney Stakes champ McKinzie. In all four grade one winners are among the eight entrants.
Let’s look at the Met Mile field and consider the most likely winner and best value. We’ll also take a peak at the other stakes races on Saturday and identify a betting option or two.
2020 Metropolitan Handicap Odds
|Code of Honor||+275|
|Hog Creek Hustle||+3000|
Odds taken July 2nd
McKinzie has had a terrific career. He has earned nearly $3.5 million and has eight wins in 16 starts. We’ll never know whether Justify would have won the Triple Crown in 2018 if McKinzie was healthy, but he missed six key spring and summer months with an injury.
McKinzie has won three grade one races, and is coming off of a grade two win in California last month.
While he has just one win in his last four races, the competition has been strong. Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith mean business when they ship across the country, and McKinzie will be ready after finishing second in this race to Mitole last year.
With five wins in seven starts Vekoma should pass $1 million in earnings in the Met Mile. His only loses came against Code of Honor is last year’s Fountain of Youth Stakes, and in the Kentucky Derby. His two starts this year have been ultra-impressive including romping June 6th in the Carter Handicap.
Vekoma is two for two at Belmont Park and won his only career race at one mile. If he runs the exact same race he did in the Carter, he’ll be really hard to run down in the Met Mile.
Code of Honor Ready to Pop
Since running third in the Kentucky Derby, Code of Honor has three wins in five tries. His four year old debut was a winning one at Belmont Park early last month.
Code of Honor was more than 10 lengths behind McKinzie in the Breeders Cup, but four year olds make big jumps, and second off a layoff he should be in great shape. Code of Honor is three for four at Belmont Park, but it is possible this race is a pinch too short for him.
Longshot players might want to consider Warrior’s Charge. He will be on the lead and though he was passed by the talented By My Standards in May’s Oaklawn Handicap, he held off Mr Freeze for second.
The cutback in distance today could help Warrior’s Charge, and he is well rested having not raced since early May.
This is a very competitive race. McKinzie is all class, Vekoma’s last two races are spectacular, and Code of Honor should be primed for a big effort. While McKinzie is marginally the most likely winner, the odds are a little better on Vekoma, and it is very possible at the age of four he has found his preferred distance, track, and footing. Vekoma is our selection.
Sunday’s Other Stakes Races:
As is so often the case in turf races, trainer Chad Brown has two intriguing options in this mile event for older horses. The lightly raced Valid Point is making his four year old debut and will need to improve in the way that stablemate Value Proposition did in his return to action last month.
Both will be chasing pace setter Dream Friend who is stepping up in class and will try to go wire to wire. The likely favorite is classy Got Stormy, who has just one win in the last year, but faces the best of the best consistently.
Don’t count out trainer Todd Pletcher’s Social Paranoia, who hasn’t been great this year, but should like the cutback in distance.
A field of eight going a-mile-and-a-quarter on turf includes just one grade one winner, Channel Maker, who has been dreadful in three races his year. Instilled Regard is coming off a win, beating Devamani last month.
The only other horse coming off a victory is Spooky Channel, who is stepping up in class, but has had a couple strong races this year. Seven year old Sadler’s Joy needs some pace to run into, but certainly is classy enough.
Despite not winning since April of last year, Tacitus seems well positioned in this mile-and-a-quarter test over the main track. He is always bet, and frequently disappoints, but has been facing very strong horses, and the competition today is not as good.
Mr Buff will be on the lead, and he has won 14 times including three of his last four and six of nine. However, his efforts against open competition, not just strictly New York breds is spotty. Moretti is stepping up in class but last time out he dominated a stakes field in his first start at Belmont Park. A repeat of that will put him right in the mix in the Suburban.
Victory Ride Stakes
Frank’s Rockette has been the favorite in all seven of her races. She has three wins and four seconds but does not have a graded stakes win. She is shifting from six furlongs to six and a half furlongs in this one, and anything close to her win in Florida in February should be good enough.
Frank’s Rockette is working really well, but has competition in Brown’s Center Aisle. Her first race was a dandy, but she was a non factor last time out. Up in Smoke certainly seems to prefer sprint races and is coming off a win. She has four victories in five tries. Reagan’s Edge is trained by former Brown assistant Cherie DeVaux, who has experienced some recent success. She won at 12/1 last time out.
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