05/28/2011 9:37AM

Looking at the Met Mile


Whether it is because it represents a true middle ground for a rare battle between top-notch classic distance types shortening up and high class sprinters stretching out, or whether it is because it is the big event on the holiday weekend that marks the unofficial beginning of my favorite season, the Met Mile has always been one of my very favorite races. For me, the Met Mile (I always call it that, not the Metropolitan) ranks right up there with the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Travers, the Santa Anita Handicap, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Monday’s 119th running of the Met Mile might not have attracted one of its best fields ever. But what it lacks in terms of star power, it makes up for as an intriguing betting race. Let’s take a look at the field, in post position order:

Soaring Empire – There is very little wrong with his form at the distance, especially his win in the Hal’s Hope three starts back. Makes his first start in 2 ½ months, but he has run big fresh before, so that doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is his rail draw, because he will likely get shuffled back early, and it’s not like he’s that much better than these that he can concede position. I also wonder if he’ll be able to transfer his sharp winter Gulfstream form to another track, because there have been several horses who haven’t.

Stormy’s Majesty – The first of four New York breds in this race, I doubt he’ll be much more than an early factor.

Rodman – This will be his third well-spaced start after a 14 month absence. He’s reaching here.

Aikenite – I always liked this horse a bit. He was even in my Triple Crown fantasy league last year, so I find it amusing that he has finally arrived with Grade 2 sprint stakes wins in his last two starts. I found nothing funny about his win in the Churchill Downs Stakes last time out, because he nosed the horse I needed, Apriority. Feelings aside, however, he capitalized on an outside bias at Churchill, so I’m taking a stand against.

Caixa Eletronica – Turned in the best race of his career upsetting the Westchester most recently first start off the Mike Repole/Todd Pletcher claim. I’m not sure where that effort came from since it was his 41st career start. But that win was strong, at the distance, over the track, so he should be included in exotics.

Yawanna Twist – New York bred #2, it seems like he’s searched his whole career for his proper niche, and I suspect being a miler might be it. But I also suspect that he’s not quite good enough for this, although I would throw him in underneath in exotics.

Ibboyee – The third New York bred in the line up was a fast closing third in the Churchill Downs Stakes, beaten only a half-length by Aikenite. But he also rode the outside bias, so I’m going against.

Haynesfield – The last and definitely best New York bred in the field, he was a big disappointment when a tired fourth in the Westchester at 4-5. That was his first start in five months, but he had a history of running well fresh, and after all, this is the horse who clobbered subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame when he ran away with the Jockey Club Gold Cup last fall. But we know this horse is capable of much better, and he’ll be a much more palatable price this time, so he’s a must use.

Kensei – I thought this horse would go on to serious things after he put together consecutive wins in the Dwyer and Jim Dandy in his 3-year-old campaign, but it never panned out. In fact, he’s 5 now, and is still looking for his first win since the ’09 Jim Dandy. Pass.

Tackleberry – He had just a tremendous meet at Gulfstream winning the Sunshine Millions Classic, the Gulfsftream Sprint Championship, and the Gulfstream Handicap at respective distances of nine, seven, and eight furlongs. I wouldn’t hold his loss most recently in the three-turn Charles Town Classic against him, and he is first time Lasix on Monday. I could be wrong, but I have this nagging feeling that he fired his best shots in Florida, and won’t be as effective elsewhere.

Tizway – I liked this horse in Tackleberry’s Gulfstream Park Handicap (a race in which Soaring Empire finished second) and he ran well to be third, beaten a neck for all the money, off a four month layoff. He also ran respectably when third in the Charles Town Classic while going nine furlongs, which is a bit beyond his best game. He now returns to the track on which he ran huge winning the Kelso Handicap at the distance last fall while being primed for his best third start off the layoff. My pick to win.