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Haynesfield Tepid Favorite in Loaded Met Mile

10 02 2010: Haynesfield & Ramon Dominguez win the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup by 7 lengths, at 1 1/4, 3-year olds & up, Belmont Park, Elmont, NY. Trainer Steve Asmussen. Owners Turtle Bird Stable
Tackleberry will attempt to pick up his first victory outside Florida when he takes on 10 opponents, including a talented trio trained by Todd Pletcher and a powerful pair from the barn of Steve Asmussen, on Memorial Day in the contentious 119th renewal of the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap, the first Grade 1 of Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet.

 

The $500,000 Met Mile is the first Breeders’ Cup Challenge race in North America, with the winner, if nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by October 24, to be guaranteed a berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, have his pre-entry and entry fees waived, and receive a $10,000 travel allowance.

 

Owned and trained by Luis Olivares, Tackleberry validated his 27-1 upset in the restricted, 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on January 29 with triumphs in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship at seven furlongs on February 12 and in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap at one mile on March 12. He enters Monday’s race off a fourth in the slop in the Grade 3 Charles Town Classic around three turns at 1 1/8 miles on April 16.

 

“Every time he has run, he has improved, even in the last race where I didn’t think he handled the track,” said Olivares. “He was fourth, so he didn’t run that badly. It was a bullring track, and he had never run on one before. I think his ideal distance is seven-eighths to a mile, but when he ran a mile and an eighth, he didn’t get tired. He just kept rolling.”

 

The Met Mile will be Tackleberry’s first race on Lasix.

 

“He bled a little bit in his last start, so I decided to put him on it,” said Olivares. “He didn’t bleed much, but it was enough. I’ve breezed him a couple of times on Lasix, and he breezed real well.”

 

Javier Santiago will ride Tackleberry, 6-1 on the morning line and the 120-pound co-highweight, from post position 10.

 

Trainer Todd Pletcher will be well-represented in the Met Mile with Caixa Eletronica, victorious in the Grade 3 Westchester, and Aikenite and Ibboyee, first and third, respectively, in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on May 7.

 

Caixa Eletronica, third behind Tackleberry and Soaring Empire in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, was claimed by Pletcher and owner Mike Repole out of a $62,500 optional claiming victory at Gulfstream on March 9. The son of Arromanches quickly rewarded their confidence with a three-length score from off the pace in the Westchester, Belmont Park’s prep for the Met Mile.

 

“We picked out the Westchester as the first spot where we going to run him,” said Pletcher. “We weren’t shocked he won the Westchester, and the horse has trained well since then. He obviously relishes a one-turn mile, is in good form, and sits the right kind of trip.”

 

Caixa Eletronica, 8-1 on the morning line, will leave from post position 5 under Cornelio Velasquez and 117 pounds.

 

Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite, a veteran of the 2010 Triple Crown trail, has blossomed this spring, overcoming a troubled trip to take the Grade 2 Commonwealth at Keeneland on May 7 prior to his nose victory at Churchill Downs.

 

“It seems like the layoff he got after the Breeders’ Cup last year really did him well,” said Pletcher. “He’s been more enthusiastic than ever, and he seems to be in really good form. If you had to pick his absolute best distance it might be seven-eighths, but a one-turn mile is certainly within his scope.”

 

Aikenite, the 9-2 morning-line second choice, shares highweight responsibilities at 120 pounds and will leave from post 4 with John Velazquez aboard.

 

New York-bred Ibboyee, a five-time stakes winner, has made two starts this year, missing by three-quarters of a length in the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park on April 3 and finishing a half-length behind his stablemate in the Churchill Downs Stakes.

 

“I thought he ran a huge race last time and both of his races this year have been quite good,” said Pletcher of the Anstu Stables representative. “A one-turn mile suits him well and he’s in good form right now, so we felt it was worth taking a shot.”

 

Javier Castelanno will ride Ibboyee, who was installed at 15-1 on the morning and assigned 115 pounds, from post 7.

 

Steve Asmussen’s entrants, Kensei and Haynesfield, will attempt to add the Met Mile to their lists of accomplishments in New York.

 

Stonestreet Stables’ Kensei, whose two most recent victories came in 2009 in the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course, enters the Met Mile off a runner-up effort behind 2010 Santa Anita Handicap winner Misremembered in the Santana Mile at Santa Anita on March 6 and a fourth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack on April 9.

 

“I liked his race back at Santa Anita [in the Santana Mile] against the Big Cap winner,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to Asmussen. “He ran a big number that day off the layoff. He had some trouble in the Carter, and we’re looking forward to having him run in a Grade 1 where he has a good draw and can have a good trip.”

 

Kensei, 12-1 on the morning line and assigned 115 pounds, will have the services of Eddie Castro from post 9.

 

Haynesfield, the reigning New York-bred Horse of the Year, defeated eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in October, beat one home when 11th in the Classic in November, and lost by a head when second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct in November. In his 2011 debut, the Turtle Bird Stable representative was fourth in the Westchester after contesting the pace and fading in the stretch.

 

Made the 7-2 morning-line favorite and assigned 119 pounds, Haynesfield will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez from post 8.

 

Soaring Empire, sixth in the Cigar Mile, comes into the Met Mile off three starts at Gulfstream Park. After taking the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope on January 8, the 4-year-old son of Empire Maker finished second behind Tackleberry in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and Gulfstream Park Handicap. The Met Mile will be the fourth meeting between the two 4-year-olds, with Tackleberry having finished fourth in the Hal’s Hope.

 

“It could have gone better in the Gulfstream Park Sprint as he reared up, broke slowly, and closed ground,” said Cam Gambolati, who trains Soaring Empire for Ol Memorial Stable and Charles E. Glasscock. “I thought he should’ve won. In his next start, Tackleberry had things his own way, and Gulfstream Park is a track where it’s tough to close ground. There should be a lot more pace here, and I think Belmont will suit him better with the sweeping turns.”

 

Soaring Empire was entered in the Westchester, but Gambolati said a foot bruise forced him to withdraw the colt from the race.

 

“He missed a couple days of training, but it was nothing serious,” said Gambolati.

 

Soaring Empire, tabbed at 6-1, will leave from the rail under Jose Lezcano and 118 pounds.

 

Rodman, owned by Barry Schwartz, will step up in class for the Met Mile off a 3 ½-length score in the Irish Tower overnight stakes at Aqueduct on April 14. It was Rodman’s second race off a lengthy layoff as he had finished second in a February 18 optional claimer on the inner track in what was his first start since his victory in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap in December 2009.

 

“His last race was pretty impressive, but he’s going to have to improve pretty significantly off that,” said trainer Michael Hushion. “[The Met Mile is] his third race off a layoff, and he’s a big, heavy horse, so there’s a chance he could. And he’s been training great.”

 

A 20-1 long shot, Rodman will tote 115 pounds from post 3. Channing Hill has the call.

 

The Met Mile field also includes graded stakes winners Stormy’s Majesty, victorious against New York-breds in the Noble Nashua overnight stakes on April 22, and Tizway, triumphant by five lengths over the Met Mile’s course and distance in the Grade 2 Kelso last October and most recently third in the Charles Town Classic, as well as Carter third-place finisher Yawanna Twist.

 

The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Soaring Empire (KY)

J Lezcano

118

C M Gambolati

6-1

2

Stormy's Majesty (NY)

E S Prado

115

D G Galluscio

30-1

3

Rodman (KY)

C Hill

115

M E Hushion

20-1

4

Aikenite (FL)

J R Velazquez

120

T A Pletcher

9-2

5

Caixa Eletronica (KY)

C H Velasquez

117

T A Pletcher

8-1

6

Yawanna Twist (NY)

M J Luzzi

115

R E Dutrow, Jr.

12-1

7

Ibboyee (NY)

J Castellano

115

T A Pletcher

15-1

8

Haynesfield (NY)

R A Dominguez

119

S M Asmussen

7-2

9

Kensei (KY)

E Castro

115

S M Asmussen

12-1

10

Tackleberry (FL)

J Santiago

120

L Olivares

6-1

11

Tizway (KY)

R Maragh

116

H J Bond

5-1

 

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Older Comments about Haynesfield Tepid Favorite in Loaded Met Mile...

I'm rooting for Tackleberry....it's a good competitive field!
Tackleberry will surprise yet again...
I like Tizway at this distance and at that price, especially with having some nice workouts. Besides, I like the Tiznows anyway ;).

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