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McKinzie, Thunder Snow, Mitole Headline Star Studded G1 Met Mile

by New York Racing Association Press Release

June 4, 2019

ELMONT, N.Y. - Annually one of the country's most highly anticipated races, Saturday's Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap offers a rousing renewal in 2019.

The 'Win and You're In' for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile has attracted an epic field of nine including five Grade/Group 1 winners, six millionaires and the world's richest horse.

The Runhappy Metropolitan is one of an unprecedented eight Grade 1 races on the card for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

The winner will join elite company, including Kelso, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Forego, Holy Bull and Ghostzapper, as well as the most memorable performer this decade, Frosted, whose 2016 razing of his rivals by 14¼ lengths in 1:32.73 was one for the record books on both accounts.

Those same royal blue silks of that Godolphin's Frosted flashed past the finish three years ago return with Thunder Snow, the world's premier ownership's top purse-earning pupil with a bankroll of $16,391,476 - $7 million more than all of his competitors combined. The four-time Group 1-winning globetrotter the world's current leader in that category, thanks to 11 Group 1 wins or placings in five countries and having twice annexed the globe's richest affair, the 10-furlong Group 1 Dubai World Cup.

After eight consecutive races at 1 3/16 miles or farther, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained and currently UK-based 5-year-old son of Helmet cuts back to a one-turn mile trip at which he won the 2017 Group 3 UAE 2,000 Guineas, coincidentally over 2018 Met Mile victor Bee Jersey and subsequent Group 1 winners Capezzano and Best Solution.

The multi-surface specialist returns to the U.S. for the first time since finishing third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic and will again receive the services of France's champion jockey Christophe Soumillon. They break from post 4 racing for the first time since March 30 and fourth attempt at an American Grade 1. He will carry co-highweight of 124 pounds under the handicap conditions-the least he has carried since his March 2017 Group 2 UAE Derby victory.

"This is a good place to start for him," Bin Suroor said of the 2018 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up. "He is ready to run. He will have an American campaign and we want to get him started. The Breeders' Cup Classic is the goal again this year."

Sharing top weight is Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman's three-time Grade 1-winning McKinzie, who appears the horse to beat on paper, despite finishing well behind Thunder Snow when 12th in the Classic.

Raced four times to a pair of victories and second-place finishes since, he is more effective at trips around one mile, including a pair of one-sided victories in December's seven-furlong Grade 1 Malibu and last month's 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Alysheba-both by a widening 4¾ lengths. A winner of six of 10, the well-regarded son of champion Street Sense and Breeders' Cup-placed Runway Model appears primed to pose in the winner's enclosure for his Hall of Fame trainer and jockey, Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, who teamed up to win this in 2017 with Mor Spirit. Smith, who also won with Holy Bull in 1994, will look to work out a winning strategy from post 2.

Three others to race on the 2019 Dubai World Cup card are entered, led by Group 2 Godolphin Mile winner Coal Front, who carries 122 pounds for trainer Todd Pletcher. Devoid of a top-level win, the son of Stay Thirsty was fifth in his lone Grade 1 try, 2017's H. Allen Jerkens. Jose Ortiz will guide Coal Front from the inside post.

Pletcher will also saddle multiple graded stakes winner Prince Lucky in the Runhappy Metropolitan. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Corinthian captured the Grade 3 Hal's Hope and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile over the winter at Gulfstream Park

He will be piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 9.

Category is 'Grade 1-winning longshots that start with the letter P,' as Robert J. Baron's 2018 Jerkens winner Promises Fulfilled (120 pounds) and Reddam Racing's Stephen Foster victor Pavel (118 pounds) must improve after each finishing fourth at Meydan, while also seeking their respective first victories since last summer.

The former followed his fourth in the six-furlong Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen behind X Y Jet with a third behind Mitole in last month's seven-furlong Grade 1 Churchill Downs.

Pavel was fourth for the second consecutive year in the Dubai World Cup and 10th in last fall's Classic, but has shown a liking for the Belmont surface when third in the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The Dale Romans-trained Promises Fulfilled breaks from post 6 under Luis Saez, while the Doug O'Neill-trained Pavel will reunite with Mario Gutierrez from post 8.

William and Corrine Heiligbrodt's Mitole, who carries the same 122 pounds as Coal Front, will garner plenty of support on the back of his 3½-length Derby Day win.

Trained and ridden by last year's winning team of Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr., the lightning-quick son of Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya will look to be the third to pull off the Churchill Downs-Met Mile double after Aldebaran (2003) and Shackleford (2012). Representing the best of the sprinters in this annual speed vs. stamina clash, Mitole must reverse the five-year trend of two-turn horses cutting back en route to victory, including Palace Malice (2014) and Honor Code (2015). The seven-time winner from 10 starts breaks from post 3.

Another in that category is Mr. Amore Stables' Jason Servis-trained course specialist Firenze Fire, who is undefeated in three starts over 'Big Sandy,' including a nine-length annihilation of Mendelssohn in last July's Dwyer. Fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to cap a productive sophomore 2018 season, he has started twice in 2019, including a rout of Recruiting Ready last out in the six-furlong Runhappy Stakes. His time that day of 1:08.12 signaled a 4-year-old on the improve.

"He's in tough," Servis said. "This is going to be a very tough race. I'm not really worried about him stretching out again. It's a race where we want to take a shot and the mile is within his reach. {The Dwyer] was probably his best race."

Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call on Firenze Fire from post 7.

Last year's winning owner, Charles E. Fipke, returns with Barclay Tagg-trained Tale of Silence to round out the field. A brother to Grade 1 Cigar Mile winner Tale of Ekati, he has also proven effective at the trip, placing five of six times and winning 2018's Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont. Entering off a freshening since his second to Prince Lucky in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile on March 30, the homebred son of Tale of the Cat will break from post 5 under Julien Leparoux and carry 116 pounds.

The Met Mile is scheduled as Race 9 with a post time of 4:46 p.m. First post time is 11:35 a.m.