When Clay Sanders of Ten Strike Racing looked at the next few weekends for Warrior’s Charge, he had a decision to make. He could have opted to enter the colt in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs this weekend and hope for a Grade 2 victory.
Instead, Ten Strike decided to shoot for the stars and enter Warrior’s Charge, who most recently was second in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), in Belmont Park's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at a one-turn mile on July 4.
“We think our horse likes two turns,” Sanders said. “But the Stephen Foster was going to be equally as tough and be a Grade 2 and the Met Mile is a Grade 1, and we’re trying to make a stallion out of Warrior’s Charge, he needs a Grade 1 on his resume.”
The colt's limited success in one-turn races was a concern for Sanders, but he said that he thought Warrior’s Charge had developed enough to be a contender after struggling in previous attempts, all of which came during his two-year-old campaign.
“He’s got great gate speed,” Sanders said. “He gets out, puts himself in from and then just kind of relaxes, takes them around there pretty quick and he just has a kick in the lane that makes it hard for the horses to come from behind.”
Sanders also said that he thinks the race will teach a lesson about a few elements of Warrior’s Charge’s abilities.
“A lot of it depends on the pace dynamics of the race,” Sanders said. “One thing is how can he handle not being on the lead? All his wins he’s been up front. The great thing about the Met Mile is it’s a good test between routers and stretching out sprinters so we’ll see if he can make the lead against some speedy horses from sprint races and if he doesn’t make the lead it’ll be a good test to see if he can get past horses.”
Warrior’s Charge will face some stiff competition in the Met Mile, as the field is expected to also include McKinzie, trained by Bob Baffert, who most recently won the Triple Bend (G2) at Santa Anita. Code of Honor, trained by Claude McGaughey, is also probable for the race, coming off of a win at the Westchester (G3) at Belmont Park.
Vekoma is possible for the race and has won his last two races, including the Carter Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park.
“The Met Mile has always been one of my favorite races,” Sanders said. “Having the chance to take a horse who I think has a pretty good shot to a race like that makes you excited.”
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
|C. McGaughey III|
To Honor and Serve