The Met Mile projects to be a war from start to finish, with a fast pace on tap and no shortage of talented options.
At this point, there is a strong argument to be made that Palace Malice (#1, 8-5) is the best horse in the country right now, but he clearly did not draw well in this race, which makes leaning too heavily on him unappetizing. His prep for this in the Westchester was barely that, as he simply cruised around there without regard for his three overmatched rivals. Will he knock us out of any multi-race wagers that we make? No. But he is going to have to be very good on Saturday to beat this field from that post, and we are going to be trying to beat him in this race.
Normandy Invasion (#9, 5-1) is a bit of an enigma, as the talent is clearly there but he has managed to disappoint more often than not to this point. Our theory there is that he doesn’t really want a route of ground, and so watching him seemingly hang at the end of the Remsen as a 2yo, or the Wood Memorial as a 3yo, or seeing the ease with which Palace Malice disposed of him in the stretch last time doesn’t make us think he is overrated. It makes us think he wants a one-turn mile. We could have easily made him our top pick in this race, but he has such a big bandwagon that it is hard to get a fair price on him at the windows. As evidence of that, and regardless of the outcome, he had no business being favored over Palace Malice in the New Orleans Handicap, and yet there he was at post time, sitting there at even-money for some reason. Normandy Invasion can really run, and since it is our opinion that he is a better one-turn horse, we believe he is a big player in this race, but if he somehow finds his way to favoritism again today, we have to bet against him.
Shakin It Up (#13, 6-1) is a horse we like in this race, and one we think may offer just enough value to make our top play. Yes, Shakin It Up took advantage of a clean run into a pace meltdown (fractions in red to denote a hot pace) when taking the Grade 1 Malibu as a 3yo, and yes, he got a perfect trip when he buried the field in his big-figure Strub win, but he has also run very well in each of his two races since then, and done so without having the best of it trip-wise either time.
He has never been the one-turn mile before, but there are no concerns about him in that department, and he got a nice draw on the outside of several talented rivals.
We are a little tired of Clearly Now (#10, 10-1), who continues to make his own trouble. He is the kind of horse who could easily have an elite sprinter/miler’s resume at this point, but for being his own worst enemy on the track. He is likely to be too interesting a price for us not to use somewhere in here, and we would not be able to live with ourselves were he to knock us out of a score, but we have given up on trying to make him the top horse we once thought he was.
Central Banker (#6, 8-1) is another logical player in the Met Mile, though last time would have been a good time to have him, as he drifted to a very good price after disappointing a bit in the oddly run Carter Handicap (fractions in blue to denote a slow pace). There is an argument to be made that he ran a better race than Shakin It Up when second to him in the Malibu, as Central Banker was the first to move into that torrid pace, and was asked to carry his run a long way in there.
We deliberated long and hard over the prospects of Goldencents (#4, 10-1) in this race, and are still not sure that we made the right decision in leaving him out of our play. We know he is fast and talented, but find it odd that he has been better around two turns to this point in his career. Maybe it’s simply an aberration, but his 1-for-6 record in one-turn races (the lone win being his 5.5-furlong debut), along with his dismal performance in the Cigar Mile, has turned us against him.
Our longshot to include is Vyjack (#2, 30-1). He is just starting back after an extended break following last year’s Haskell, so a race this tough may be coming too soon, but he has talent and tactical speed, has gotten a prep run in, and is much better suited to one-turn races.