Marc Keller's 6-year-old gelding Bribon came five-wide into the lane and outran a trio of rivals to take the $600,000 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) by a half-length over Smooth Air May 25 at Belmont Park.
Trained by Rob Ribaudo, French-bred Bribon entered the Met Mile off a victory in the one-mile Westchester (gr. III) April 29 at Belmont, which was his first graded stakes score. He has now recorded five of his eight career victories at the one-mile distance.
“He’s as strong now (as he ever was) and maybe a little better," said Ribaudo, who scored his first grade I victory on dirt. "He’s actually doing a little better, sound-wise. He’s got no choice (since he’s a gelding); he’s going to be around for awhile.
“A mile is a great distance for him, but it’s a great time to give him a break now. There are no mile races left – nothing of any consequence. There’s not a lot in the near future, but he deserves a little break. Maybe we’ll come back in Saratoga at seven-eighths.
Racing mid-pack in the early going of the main track event, Bribon settled in nicely under Alan Garcia, who also won the Met Mile a year ago under Divine Park
. The pace was set by longshot Driven by Success
, who took the field of 12 along in splits of :22.70, :45.20 and 1:08.55 with Ramon Dominguez in the irons. Accredit
pressed the quick pace, while Riley Tucker
, Mr. Sidney
and Smooth Air also raced closed to the front.
Bribon made his winning move racing wide on the turn and moved into striking position at the top of the lane while Driven by Success began to labor on the front end. Smooth Air moved between horses in upper stretch and gained a short advantage nearing the sixteenth-pole, but Bribon had all the momentum and overtook him in the final 70 yards for the win. The final time was 1:34.15 on the fast dirt.
“I had a good trip all the way around,” Garcia said. “I didn’t want to be too far back. At the quarter-pole, my horse put his head down and ran. I’m happy to win my second Met Mile in a row.”
Smooth Air, who earned $120,000 and went over $1 million in earnings despite finishing runner-up, was a length better than third-place Driven by Success, who was game along the rail to edge out late-charging My Pal Charlie.
A son of Mark of Esteem, Bribon raced mainly in allowance and optional claiming ranks since shipping from France to the states in mid-2006, and after several solid efforts in that company Ribaudo decided to try the chestnut in the Hill n’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) last November at Aqueduct. A strong third-place effort gave him confidence for an aggressive 2009 campaign.
Bribon, who was bred by Darpat S.L. and is out of the Arazi mare Rowat Arazi, was 10th in the Jan. 3 Hal’s Hope (gr. III) in his seasonal debut, won an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in February, then finished fourth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) the following month. He made a big move on the turn in the Westchester en route to a one-length score.
Now 8-7-3 from 27 starts, Bribon has earned $735,607. While racing in France for Darpat S.L., he won two of seven starts.