Leading trainer Todd Petcher, still in search of his first victory in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), sends out a pair of talented colts in Lawyer Ron and Half Ours for Monday's $600,000 Memorial Day headliner at Belmont Park.
Since 2001, Pletcher has raced six horses in the Met Mile, and among those defeated were Left Bank, champion older horse of 2002, and grade I winners Forest Danger and Bandini. A field of 10, including the two Pletcher entrants, are expected for this year's 114th running.
“This is one of those races we haven’t been able to win,” Pletcher said. “We’ll take another crack at it and hope to get lucky.”
Leading the Pletcher attack is Lawyer Ron, an ultra-consistent colt who is sired by the 1997 Metropolitan winner, Langfuhr . Lawyer Ron, an earner of $1.8 million with 10 wins in 20 starts, is unbeaten this season after winning a Gulfstream optional claimer in February and the Oaklawn Park Handicap (gr. II) April 7.
“He won his first start back this year going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream and he looked good doing it,” Pletcher said. “Obviously, this is a tougher group of horses, but the way he ran that day it looks like he can do just about anything. There should be plenty of pace that he can sit off.”
Lawyer Ron, unbeaten in three starts at a mile, did not have much pre-race luck, drawing the rail. Jockey Edgar Prado, who won this race a year ago with Silver Train, has the mount.
The Pletcher-trained Half Ours has won five of six career starts, suffering his only loss to the speedy Wanderin Boy three weeks ago in the Alysheba (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. Half Ours chased Wanderin Boy from start to finish in the Alysheba and never made much of a run late.
“We left that race a little wide open,” Pletcher said. “We were worried about horses coming from off the pace and probably should have went on with it and made more of an issue with Wanderin Boy.”
Half Ours, a 4-year-old by Unbridled's Song, is unbeaten in five starts going one turn. He’s also a multiple stakes winner, including Gulfstream’s Richter Scale (gr. II).
“I think he’s pretty versatile, but this should suit him pretty well,” Pletcher said. “I’m anxious to see him against a field of this quality.”
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens says he’s loved the way Corinthian has trained in recent weeks. He also says a Met Mile victory would be icing on the cake.
“A Met Mile win would be the greatest,” Jerkens said. “The Met Mile, for some reason, it’s like winning the Belmont.”
Corinthian developed into a top 3-year-old early on in 2006, but a hairline fracture sent him to the sidelines. Since returning to the races bigger and stronger in ’07, Corinthian has won two of three races including the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II).
“We gave him the time and he’s come back in good shape,” Jerkens said.
Corinthian might be best beyond a mile and in two-turn races, but he did break his maiden under the Met Mile’s conditions in November 2005.
“It’s going to be tough,” Jerkens said. “Going a mile against those horses, you’ve got to run the whole way. At least, we let him pretty much run the whole way in his work the other day, so he should be ready.
Owned by Centennial Farms, Corinthian drew post 9 with jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. won last year’s Met Mile with Silver Train for owner Four Roses Thoroughbreds. Four Roses and Dutrow are back with Silver Wagon, the runaway winner of Aqueduct’s Carter (gr. I) in April. Silver Wagon, a classy veteran, should get a hot pace to attack with the presence of Accountforthegold, Latent Heat and Political Force. Dutrow also entered longshot Mr. Umphrey, whose job it is to ensure a scorching pace.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence (Silver Wagon) is going to run a big race,” Dutrow said. “A mile around one turn, he can get that. I entered Mr. Umphrey to make sure there’s a fast pace. This is a race I’ve always loved, so to win it a second year would be great.”
Tracy Farmer’s Sun King, an earner of $2 million, fell a head short of defeating Silver Train in last year’s Met Mile. Now 5, Sun King should be ready to fire another big effort, considering this is his second start of the season and he ran really well while in-between foes in the May 2 Westchester (gr. III) to open the spring Belmont season. Sun King starts for trainer Nick Zito.
Juddmonte Farm’s Latent Heat goes for trainer Bobby Frankel, who has won the race four times, most recently with Horse of the Year Ghostzapper in 2005.
Latent Heat, a son of Maria's Mon, owns graded stakes wins in Southern California’s Malibu (gr. I) and San Carlos (gr. II). In his return to New York, Latent Heat had a strenuous trip while battling for the lead between horses in the April 7 Carter.
Silent Name, a grade I performer on the grass could have a say in the race’s outcome if he handles the Belmont dirt. By a Kentucky Derby champion in Sunday Silence, Silent Name recently scored a victory in Keeneland’s Commonwealth (gr. II) over Polytrack, a surface that tends to play like turf.
$600,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I, Race 8, 4:43 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Lawyer Ron (KY), 119, Edgar S. Prado
2. Half Ours (KY), 117, John R. Velazquez
3. Mr. Umphrey (FL), 113, Rudy R. Rodriguez
4. Sun King (KY), 118, Eibar Coa
5. Silver Wagon (FL), 119, Javier Castellano
6. Accountforthegold (NY), 114, Michael J. Luzzi
7. Latent Heat (KY), 118, Rafael Bejarano
8. Political Force (KY), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
9. Corinthian (KY), 117, Kent J. Desormeaux
10. Silent Name (JPN), 117, Corey S. Nakatani