To Honor and Serve won his 2012 debut in the one-mile Westchester Stakes at Belmont April 28.

To Honor and Serve won his 2012 debut in the one-mile Westchester Stakes at Belmont April 28.

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No Pushovers in Strong Metropolitan Handicap

A field of six, four of them grade I winners, will square off at Belmont May 28.

Experience and previous success on the Belmont Park dirt surface could be the deciding factor when a short but strong field gathers for the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at one mile May 28.

Six horses were entered for Metropolitan Handicap, one of four stakes—three of them grade I—on the Memorial Day program at the New York racetrack. It’s the 10th race on an 11-race card.

The field includes grade I winner To Honor and Serve, three-for-three at the one-turn mile; 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Caleb's Posse ; grade I winner Shackleford , who won the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) in his last start; grade I winner and strong one-turn runner Jackson Bend; 17-time winner Caixa Eletronica, won the three-turn Charles Town Classic (gr. II) in his last start; and New York-bred Saginaw, four-four-four since being claimed for $30,000 in March.

To Honor and Serve has been pointed to, and was the expected favorite for, the Metropolitan Handicap since his 2012 debut in the one-mile Westchester Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont April 28. The 4-year-old Bernardini  colt toyed with the field to win going away in 1:34.34 on a fast track.

Owned by Live Oak Plantation and trained by Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve won the grade I Cigar Mile last fall in his final start of 2011, and won the grade II Nashua Stakes at 2. Like the Westchester, those two stakes are at the one-turn mile distance.

To Honor and Serve, to be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post 1, is two-for-two at Belmont. He was assigned 120 pounds, one less than co-high weights Caleb’s Posse and Jackson Bend.

McNeil Stables and Cheyenne Stables’ Caleb’s Posse, trained by Donnie Von Hemel, was a powerful winner of the Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in his final start of 2011 and has returned in fine form this year. The 4-year-old Posse colt, a proven off-the-pace type, finished second by a neck in the six-furlong Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) in March and second by a nose in the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct.

Caleb’s Posse has been based at Arlington Park, where he turned in quick six-furlong workouts on the Polytrack. Rajiv Maragh, his regular rider since last summer, has the call from post 3 aboard Caleb’s Posse, who will make his Belmont debut.

Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei’s Jackson Bend, who nosed out Caleb’s Posse in the Carter for his second grade I win, drew post 6 on the outside for rider Corey Nakatani and trainer Nick Zito. Earlier this year the 5-year-old horse by Hear No Evil won the grade III Hal’s Hope Stakes at the one-turn mile distance at Gulfstream Park.

$750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (Race 10, 5:47 p.m. EDT), 3-year-Olds and Up, One Mile
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. To Honor and Serve (KY), J Lezcano, 120, W I Mott
2. Shackleford (KY), J R Velazquez, 119, D L Romans
3. Caleb's Posse (KY), R Maragh, 121, D K Von Hemel
4. Saginaw (NY), D Cohen, 115, D Jacobson
5. Caixa Eletronica (KY), J Castellano, 117, T A Pletcher
6. Jackson Bend (FL), C S Nakatani, 121, N P Zito