The connections of Mitole keep presenting their colt with increasingly difficult assignments and their splendid sprinter keeps proving up to the challenge.
Stretching out to a mile for the first time June 8 at Belmont Park and facing an especially talent-laden field in this year’s edition of the $1.2 million, Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, Mitole stalked early then held off late charges from a pair of multiple Grade 1 winners to post a three-quarter-length victory over favored McKinzie with two-time Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline winner Thunder Snow third.
Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Mitole, a 4-year-old Eskendereya colt, completed the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and older in 1:32.75 on the fast track, about a half second off Najran’s track record 1:32.24.
“This is the culmination of owning horses for 30 years,” Bill Heiligbrodt said. “I believe he can run any distance. You saw it today. There are no issues with him. It’s just that when a horse can run as fast as him, you have to keep him together. You don’t want to put that much stress on him.”
Bill Heiligbrodt credited Racing Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen for bringing Mitole along, despite some physical issues. The Met Mile marked his seventh straight win in a stretch that most recently has seen him win the six-furlong, Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap in April, the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes presented by TwinSpires.com — earning his first top-level score — and stretching out one more furlong Saturday to win the Met Mile.
“No one could have trained this horse, with his pasterns, other than Steve Asmussen,” Bill Heiligbrodt said. “We’ve won more than 1,000 races together.”
Mitole’s regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. also delivered a top effort Saturday. Mitole and Santana stalked Coal Front early as the recent Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City-District One winner cruised through a quarter-mile in :22.17. Just before a half-mile in :44.38, Santana and Mitole applied added pressure on the front runner entering the long turn.
Mitole would edge to the lead through six furlongs in 1:08.24 then open a clear advantage in the stretch, where he would prove tough enough to hold sway over his accomplished pursuers.
Second-choice Mitole paid $9, $4.40, and $3.50 across the board while McKinzie returned $3.30 and $2.70 for the minor awards. Thunder Snow returned $3.70 to show in his first start since becoming the first horse to twice win the Dubai World Cup.
“I was sacred to death to talk about him all week because I was so confident in him. I didn’t want to anger the racing gods,” Asmussen said. “There’s a deep appreciation for all of the support the Heiligbrodts have given me.”
The Met Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race to the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.—Frank Angst
Midnight Bisou Powerful in Ogden Phipps Win
As Come Dancing forged a clear lead early despite a slight stumble at the start, Midnight Bisou rated inside in fourth as the front-running Grade 2 winner cruised through a quarter-mile in :23.39 and a half-mile in :45.96.
On the long far turn at Belmont, Midnight Bisou was able to improve position, and turning for home she was able to come off the rail to engage Come Dancing and jockey Manny Franco. It wasn’t a long engagement as Midnight Bisou quickly drew clear on her way to a 3 1/2-length victory.
In winning the 1 1/16 miles stakes for older fillies and mares in a stakes-record 1:39.69 on a fast track, Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, and Allen Racing’s Midnight Bisou earned her fourth straight graded stakes win to start the season and a starting spot in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff via the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
Come Dancing finished second, with Mopotism holding her position in third.
Smith had confidence in his filly throughout the race.
“She just seems to be getting better with age, and she just loves it here at Belmont,” Smith said. “I don’t know what it is, but Big Sandy seems to bring out the best in her.”
Second choice Midnight Bisou paid $5.40, $2.60, and $2.10, and 4-5 favorite Come Dancing returned $2.30 and $2.10. Mopotism paid $3.50 to show.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou now has four Grade 1 wins, including a narrow victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap April 14 at Oaklawn Park. The daughter of champion sprinter Midnight Lute improved her record to nine wins, three seconds, and three thirds from 15 starts and surpassed $2.75 million in earnings.
“She makes you so proud. She changes people’s lives. She’s just a special horse, and I’m proud to be associated with her,” Asmussen said. “I believe she’s added to how great she is with consistency. She’s expecting to win, and I think the results speak for themselves.”—Frank Angst
Front-Running World of Trouble Dominates Jaipur
World of Trouble had no problem securing his third consecutive graded stakes win and seventh win in his past eight races, sizzling over a firm Belmont Park Widener turf course June 8 to win the $400,000, Grade 1 Jaipur Invitational Stakes.
Sent to the front by Manny Franco after breaking from post-position 6, the Kantharos colt cleared the field and dropped inside, holding off 6-year-old mare Belvoir Bay, who stalked a length behind. When Belvoir Bay faded, Om mounted a new challenge, but he was no match for World of Trouble, who set fractions of :21.99 and :43.85 before winning the six-furlong contest in 1:06.37 by 1 3/4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite.
“I know that he’s fast, and I knew I was rolling in front,” said Franco. “I don’t try to fight him or get on him too early, and he always responds. By the eighth pole, I knew someone was coming closer to me, and my horse, when he felt it, took off again. I had a lot of confidence.”
Om was second, and another three-quarters of a length behind came Disco Partner, who won this race in 2017 and 2018.
Michael Dubb and his partners broke Patricia A. Generazio’s winning streak in the race; horses owned and bred by her had won the Jaipur for the past three years.
“I’ve never had a horse like this before,” said Dubb, who’s owned a good horse or two in his career, including champions. “I’ve never had a grade 1 winner on turf and dirt.”
“I was a little bit relieved that [Belvoir Bay] didn’t press him,” winning trainer Jason Servis said. “I got a little worried at the eighth pole, and then it looked like he was going to be OK. I think he runs a little scared, like, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go,’ but he’s a special horse. I’m looking forward to training some of his offspring. If I had a mare, I think I’d want to breed to him with that speed.”—Teresa Genaro