In addition to the running of the third jewel of the 2017 Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, Belmont Park will host two crucial Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races on Saturday. The Ogden Phipps Stakes will feature some of the best fillies and mares in the country, while the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap, more commonly referred to as the Met Mile, showcases an extremely competitive field of male dirt runners.
In analyzing the puzzle that is the 12-horse field for the Met Mile, the race features several intriguing longshots who could step up and run big – especially if the pace is hot early. One might indeed predict that several horses on the front end, led by #5 Sharp Azteca, will ensure fast splits throughout. Drawn near the rail is the always forwardly-placed #2 Rally Cry, and to the outside is #9 Mor Spirit, who is generally not too far from the lead right from the break.
In forecasting a pace scenario that seems realistic, there’s a distinct possibility that the early pace and pressure could take a toll on Sharp Azteca. Mor Spirit may have to work a little harder but could tactically benefit from his outside draw, and towers over most of the field from both an Equibase and Beyer Speed Figure standpoint. That said, he has to be included on all tickets. Now, let’s get to those longshots.
Inside Straight (#1) has a very sneaky look to him for trainer Robertino Diodoro, who has won with 5 of 18 starters (including eight in-the-money finishes) that he’s shipped and run at Belmont Park over the past couple of years. The horse himself has shown marked improvement this year, specifically in his last two races since his blinkers were removed; he handily won an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park in March before winning the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. Adding to the horse’s appeal is that he ran one of his best races last year in a start at Belmont, which he won by more than 10 lengths.
Way on the outside is #12 Awesome Slew. He isn’t as much of a longshot as Inside Straight, but he’ll probably be a fair 5-1 or higher. Given the trip traffic he encountered late in his last race, the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Twinspires.com, the fact he finished second by a head was a minor miracle. Prior to that, he took down a Grade 3 stakes at Keeneland. He’s in good form and there’s every reason to think he’ll get the proper setup to make his patented late run on Saturday.
Others to consider are #7 Economic Model and #11 Tommy Macho – both horses have some back form over the dirt at Belmont and could fire big off of a layoff. I’d include them on tickets, as your budget might allow. Speaking of, let’s go ahead and make a few bets on a $25 budget.
$1 exacta 1,9,12 over 1,7,9,12 ($9)
$1 trifecta 1,9 over 1,9,12 over 1,7,8,9,11,12 ($16)