Stay Lucky Picks: Met Mile Card Highlights Fourth of July Weekend

Vekoma, above winning the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter Handicap, is a top contender in the $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park July 4. (Eclipse Sportswire)

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weekend TV schedule

Thursday, July 2: 1-2:20 and 4:30-6 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, July 3: 1-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, July 4: 1-7 p.m. ET on FS1; 5-6 p.m. ET on NBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, July 5: 1-6 p.m. ET on FS1; post time varies on TVG

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

This weekend’s Stay Lucky slate is headlined by a robust Fourth of July card as Belmont Park hosts the $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap as the anchor of an Independence Day racecard that also features four other graded stakes. The Met Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, held during the 37th World Championships this November at Keeneland.

NBC Sports will show the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap during a live broadcast Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on NBC.

Saturday, July 4

Delaware Oaks (4:45 p.m. ET): I’m thinking this race probably comes down to the top-two finishers of the Gardenia Stakes May 1 at Oaklawn Park: winner Piece of My Heart (#2) and Comical (#1). There are a couple others in her with a shot, but I’ll try Comical to turn the tables on a familiar foe.

Eclipse Stakes (4:46 p.m. ET): The Eclipse drew a deep and balanced group of seven. I expect Mr Ritz (#4) to take a lot of money, but I’m interested in first-time gelding Uncle Bull (#1) coming back off the long layoff having dominated in his only previous start on a synthetic track. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking any of the entrants for Stay Lucky, but there are three or four whose odds I’ll be watching that might be really interesting at a price.

Poker Stakes (5:13 p.m. ET): Chad Brown has a pair of lightly raced but very promising 4-year-olds. Valid Point (#2) won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes last year but has not raced in almost eight months, although Brown is superb off a layoff of 180-days-plus at 27%. Stablemate Value Proposition (#9) finished very well for Brown to win an allowance race on this course and at this distance June 3 off a layoff of more than 10 months. And then there is last year’s TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Got Stormy (#7), who disappointed in the Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes June 3 but had been incredibly consistent in 10 previous starts. There also is rain in the forecast for Friday, which could soften the turf and complicate things for Saturday. I’m going to play Valid Point but I don’t feel especially confident in the pick.

Kent Stakes (5:15 p.m. ET): With five of the eight runners between 5-2 and 6-1, this looks like a fairly wide-open race probably not ideal for a Stay Lucky play where you just want to bank a winner. Gufo (#6) looks like a logical favorite and Vanzzy (#8) might take a step forward dropping down from a Grade 2, but I’ll take a shot with 6-1 Bye Bye Melvin (#4) coming off a rough race on the main track in the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and returning to the turf, where he had won two straight from on or near the lead. His half-sister Mean Mary has the same running style and was a winner for us a week ago in this blog. I think we will see a big race from Bye Bye Melvin.

Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (5:47 p.m. ET): Vekoma (#2), McKinzie (#3), and Code of Honor (#5) all enter the Met Mile off monster performances in one-turn races and all three have run well on wet surfaces, too, so there is no real advantage there. Code of Honor is one of my two favorite horses in training, but I think I have to back Vekoma here after he has won his two races this year by a combined 11 lengths. Tough race for Stay Lucky purposes.

Manhattan Stakes (6:20 p.m. ET): Trainer Chad Brown has three of the seven entrants and I expect the winner to come from his barn. I think the added distance will help Devamani (#5) turn the tables on stablemate Instilled Regard (#1) here, but it is a tough call and Brown’s third starter, Rockemperor (#2), enters off a very strong race May 23.

Suburban Stakes (6:51 p.m. ET): I can’t believe I’m writing this, but even though he has lost seven straight, including three as the favorite, and is 0-for-3 at this 1 ¼-mile distance, I’m making Tacitus (#1) a top play this week. He’s been facing tougher competition and I think he gets back on track here.

Great Lady M Stakes (7:28 p.m. ET): On a weekend where there look like very few favorites that profile as clear standouts, Bellafina (#1) probably is the safest choice. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint runner-up enters off a Grade 3 win and makes her third start of the year against a fairly weak bunch.

Sunday, July 5

Iowa Oaks (8:35 p.m. ET): I’m torn between Aurelia Garland (#5) and Ocean Breeze (#6) here and probably will wait to see the odds before developing a betting strategy. For Stay Lucky purposes I’ll probably play Ocean Breeze if I don’t have a big streak riding on it. If I go into Sunday with three or four wins, I’ll skip this race and hope for an easier spot next weekend.

Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (9:02 p.m. ET): Sir Anthony (#2) won this race last year from way off the pace, but he has not come close to winning in four subsequent starts. If he runs back to last year’s race he’d have a good shot, but I’m not especially confident. I prefer Night Ops (#3). He had a terrible trip when unplaced in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap against a better group than he’ll face here and he looked very solid when winning the Essex Handicap two starts back at Oaklawn.

Mike’s Top Stay Lucky Picks

(11 winners from 26 top plays in 2020)

1. Bellafina (Great Lady M Stakes)

2. Tacitus (Suburban Stakes)

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