Palace Malice will take on a deep field, including the top four finishers from
the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, in the Grade 1, $1.25 million
Metropolitan Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Photo: NYRA / Coglianese Photos
Met Mile, previously contested on Memorial Day, was carded as the ninth
race on the 13-race card and is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and
You're In Race" in the Dirt Mile division.
Malice won the 2013 Belmont Stakes and will attempt to become the first
horse to win both the Belmont and the Met Mile in his career since
Conquistador Cielo swept the races in 1982. No horse has won the races
in separate years since Gallant Man (1957 Belmont, 1958 Met Mile).
The 2014 Met Mile, as is customary, attracted its share of sprinters, middle distance horses, and routers.
get everything [in the Met Mile]," said Todd Pletcher, who trains
Palace Malice for Dogwood Stable. "You get the sprinters stretching out,
the routers backing up, the true milers. It's what makes it
Malice validated his 13-1 Belmont Stakes upset victory by taking the
Grade 2 Jim Dandy in his following start, and then was beaten just
three-quarters of a length when fourth in the Grade 1 Travers, both at
Saratoga Race Course. He was a distant second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club
Gold Cup in September at Belmont before concluding his 3-year-old
season with a sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic in November at
year, Palace Malice is unbeaten in three starts, with two of those wins
coming at the Metropolitan Handicap's one-mile distance. He out-battled
Golden Ticket by a head in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in
March, soundly defeated fellow Met Mile entrant Normandy Invasion by 4 ¾
lengths traveling 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap in
March at the Fair Grounds, and easily handled three opponents when
taking the Grade 3 Westchester by 9 ¾ lengths over the Met Mile's course
and distance on May 11.
think he's adaptable to different pace scenarios," said Pletcher. "He
can sit off a fast pace, he can prompt a slow pace. He's pretty
dangerous from a number of strategies."
Malice's adaptability will be put to the test in the Met Mile as the
son of Curlin drew post position 1 in the field of 13. The 4-year-old is
the 124-pound high weight.
concerning, especially when you consider we're also carrying the top
weight," said Pletcher. "At the same time, it is what it is, and,
hopefully, he is good enough, seasoned enough, professional enough, and
handy enough to overcome a less-than-ideal draw."
of Famer John Velazquez, who rode Palace Malice in the Gulfstream Park
Handicap and in the Westchester, has the call in the Met Mile.
Banker, Shakin It Up, Clearly Now, and Broadway Empire, the respective
top four finishers in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on May 3, will meet
again in the Met Mile.
the seven-furlong Churchill Downs, 4-year-old Central Banker raced in
midpack early and prevailed over Shakin It Up in a lengthy stretch
battle to earn his first graded stakes victory. It was the second start
of 2014 for Central Banker, who was sixth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap
in April at Aqueduct Racetrack and closed out his sophomore campaign
with a pair of close runner-up performances in the Thanksgiving Handicap
at the Fair Grounds and in the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita.
ran a great race in the Churchill Downs, a career best, and he's coming
into this race the right way," said trainer Al Stall Jr. "If he can
repeat his Churchill Downs performance or improve a little he'll
definitely have a shot here. His Carter was a tough race - he was in the
No. 1 hole and got pinned - and other than that he has been running
better numbers each time."
Banker, owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, will leave
from post 6 with Corey Nakatani aboard. He was tabbed at 8-1 on the
morning line and assigned 119 pounds.
Churchill Downs reversed the form of the Malibu, which Shakin It Up won
by a half-length in December. In his two starts before the Churchill
Downs, Shakin It Up successfully stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the
Grade 2 Strub in January at Santa Anita and was fifth in the
seven-furlong Grade 2 San Carlos in March.
It Up, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Dennis Cardoza and
Michael Pegram, will have a new rider in Rosie Napravnik from post 13.
The son of Midnight Lute, the 6-1 third choice on the morning line, was
assigned 120 pounds.
Now - winner of the 2013 Grade 3 Swale and 2013 Bold Ruler Handicap,
both at seven furlongs - drew post 10, was tabbed at 10-1, and will
carry 117 pounds, including rider Jose Lezcano.
Empire, who took the 2013 Grade 3 Canadian Derby and the Grade 3
Oklahoma Derby over a route of ground, will be reunited with Scott
Stevens, who rode the 4-year-old gelding to a 9 ¾-length victory in an
optional claimer in April at Turf Paradise. Trained by Robertino Diodoro
for a partnership headed by Randy Howg, Broadway Empire, 20-1, drew
post 11 and will tote 115 pounds.
who took the 2013 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, will attempt to
start his 2014 campaign in winning fashion when he competes in the Met
Last spring, Goldencents won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby before finishing 17th
in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Grade 1 Preakness.
Following the Triple Crown, his connections decided to focus on shorter
races, and the move paid off as the colt finished second in the Grade 1
Bing Crosby, Grade 2 Pat O'Brien, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint
Championship before wiring the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile by 2 ¾ lengths in
November. He looks to regain the winning thread after concluding 2013
with a seventh as the 3-1 favorite in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap in
November at Aqueduct.
preparation for the Met Mile, trainer Doug O'Neill has given
Goldencents a series of fast six- and seven-furlong workouts at Santa
had a good series of works because there were no races for him," said
Leandro Mora, assistant to O'Neill. "I believe he is good enough to
compete with these guys, even though he has been away for quite a bit.
He wasn't ready for the [San Carlos in March], and he is a fast horse,
but we figure he is not a sprinter. He is a miler, and that's what his
who is owned by W C Racing, will have the services of Hall of Famer
Mike Smith from post 4. The bay son of Into Mischief was installed at
10-1 on the morning line and assigned 121 pounds.
5-1 morning-line second choice is Normandy Invasion, who will carry 116
pounds from post 9 for Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms and trainer Chad
Brown. Normandy Invasion seeks his first stakes win, having finished
second in the 2012 Grade 2 Remsen, 2013 Grade 1 Wood Memorial, and 2014
Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. He entered the latter event off a 7
¾-length optional claimer score in a one-turn mile race in February at
Javier Castellano will ride Normandy Invasion.
Met Mile field also includes graded stakes winners Vyjack, Moreno, Capo
Bastone, Declan's Warrior, and Romansh. Scarly Charly completes the