West Point Thoroughbreds and partners’ Mr. Fantasy and Sequoia Racing’s Imperial Council will each try to become the first 3-year-old to win the Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) since Honour and Glory did it back in 1996, but both will have to conquer a full field of older horses on May 25 at Belmont Park to make it happen.
A field of 13 was drawn for the $600,000 event, better known as the Met Mile. Among the strongest contenders in the main track contest are Mount Joy Stables’ Smooth Air, who must carry top weight of 118 pounds while trying to become a millionaire, Marc Keller’s Bribon, winner of the one-mile Westchester (gr. III) last month over the same track, and Circle E Racing’s Mr. Sidney, who won the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland in April but will make his first start on dirt since March 2007.
Post time for the Memorial Day feature is set for 5:49 p.m. EDT.
Mr. Fantasy is certain to be one of the pacesetters in the Met Mile, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hoping the son of E Dubai—Twice Forbidden, by Spectacular Bid will duplicate his performance in the April 25 Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct when he took over after a quarter-mile and outran his rivals for his first graded stakes score. Bred in New York by Corra Cavalo Thoroughbreds, Mr. Fantasy has won three of his four starts.
Interestingly, Mike Luzzi will ride for McLaughlin, who won the Met Mile last year with 4-year-old Divine Park. Alan Garcia, who has guided Mr. Fantasy twice, will ride Bribon in the Met Mile. Mr. Fantasy drew post 10.
Mr. Fantasy will carry 109 pounds as a 3-year-old. The weight break is one of the reasons that the connections chose this race over the May 16 Preakness (gr. I), West Point president Terry Finley said.
Another talented sophomore, Imperial Council, enters off a runner-up finish in the May 9 Peter Pan when Charitable Man ran away for a 3 3/4-length win. Charitable Man will race next in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Imperial Council, to be ridden by Raymundo Fuentes for Shug McGaughey, has produced a 2-3-0 record from six starts. He was also runner-up in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and fifth in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct. Imperial Council will carry low weight of 108 pounds and break from post 4.
Smooth Air enters off a victory in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. IIT) on the turf March 14 and will look for his first grade I score after capturing three grade II victories in his career. The 4-year-old son of Smooth Jazz was supposed to run in the April 25 Texas Mile (gr. III) at Lone Star Park but was scratched after a bout of colic two days before the race.
"We were lucky that there was a hospital close by and he didn’t need surgery," trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. said. "But he had a bad bellyache and it was pretty scary. So, that turned out to be a wasted trip, but we have healthy horse now and he’s a fit horse.”
Stutts shipped the bay colt back to his home base at Calder to recover from the illness and he has turned in three works since. With $932,200 in earnings, Smooth Air will try to go over $1 million with a first or second-place finish. Paco Lopez will have the ride.
“He's brought us from coast to coast, and now he’s brought us to New York," Stutts continued. "His owners want to increase his value as a stallion, and they believe that he needs to win a grade 1 like the Met Mile. This race is one that we’ve been looking at for a long time.”
Robert Ribaudo trainee Bribon looks for his third win in his last four starts and his third score in eight starts at Belmont. The 6-year-old French-bred gelding turned in a strong third-place finish in the Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) in November at Aqueduct in his North American graded stakes debut. He was fourth to Smooth Air in the Gulfstream Park Handicap before scoring by a length in the Westchester.
"Smooth Air is a very nice horse, but I think Bribon is the horse to beat if he runs his race," Ribaudo said. "Smooth Air had the home court advantage on us in Florida; maybe we have the home court advantage here. More than anything else, he needs a real pace. The Westchester set up perfectly for him. There should be a big field on Monday, and usually in a big field, there is plenty of speed. We should be okay.”
Mr. Sidney has made seven of his eight lifetime starts on the turf for trainer Bill Mott. The lightly raced 5-year-old son of Storm Cat has won all three of his starts at the one-mile distance, including the Maker’s Mark Mile when holding on for a half-length triumph. Kent Desormeaux gets the call.
Among the 4-year-olds with solid chances are the Todd Pletcher-trained Ready's Echo, third in last year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and entering off a sharp allowance score last month at Keeneland; Driven by Success, third in the Carter (gr. I) April 4 at Aqueduct; and Riley Tucker, who has been graded stakes placed four times in his career and romped by more than six lengths in an allowance contest on the slop May 2 at Churchill Downs.
Pletcher, seeking his first Met Mile victory, will also saddle The Roundhouse for Michael Tabor.
Download Brisnet Past Performances for the Met Mile.