05/26/2008 12:11PM

Met Mile Card


As you may have guessed from my absence here since Friday evening, and the lack of sightings from commenters monitoring my Furlong Frank consumption, I've been goofing off and enjoying the glorious weather in my backyard this holiday weekend instead of slaving over the races at Belmont. The revised plan was to compensate with a full, 11-race outing to the old horse park today, but after some slaving on the Met Mile Card last night I'm in no hurry to get out there. The pick-six with $238k double-carry doesn't start until the 6th at 3:40, and there's not much worth seeing all day until they run at Met at 5:49.

Every other race on the card is for maidens (4), claimers (4), statebreds (5) or some overlapping permutation thereof, with 7 of the 10 on the turf including two statebred turf sprints. There's no other stakes race on the undercard, nor even a single open allowance race. After the $600k Met, the $52k statebred N2x and the $50k statebred N1x are the richest events of the day.

There was a time when such a Memorial Day parade of mediocrity would have been unthinkable for a major holiday card at Belmont, but it's not as if they could have put on a bunch of better races with comparable fields and chose not to: You write races for the horses you have on the grounds. NYRA has made the most of its horse population with a raft of new race conditions over the last few years, creating more opportunities for the hundreds of statebred maidens and 1-for-lifers populating the backstretch: The pick-six races have fields of 13, 15, 11, 10, 9 and 12. This is what we've got these days, even on what's supposed to be a special day.

I'm still wrestling with how seriously to play the pick-six, given the two statebred turf sprints in the sequence and the regrettable positioning of the only race with firsters as the finale in the sequence. If I do pull the trigger, I'm going to be going only one or two deep in the Met itself, not only because the other races require so much spreading but also because it sure looks on paper like Commentator or Divine Park should win. I prefer Commentator, whose outside draw gives him options with Kiss The Kid the only other real speed in a pretty paceless lineup. He's the only G1 winner in the field (the '05 Whitney over Horse of the Year Saint Liam), and I'm pretty sure he's the only only racehorse this decade other than Ghostzapper to fire three Beyers of 119 or higher in his career. With just 17 starts in six years on the treack, he's obviously got his problems, but when he's right he's brilliant and he's been as right as ever as a 7-year-old this year.

Divine Park has returned to the form that won him the Withers in his third career start last year and comes off an explosive, career-best performance in the Westchester, where he scorched a mile in 1:32.70 on opening day at Belmont April 30. It gets pretty thin beyond him with the possible exception of First Defence, a fine second to Hard Spun in the King's Bishop last August (though Hard Spun did all the dirty work that day) an a winner of his 4-year-old debut despite being pressed every step.

Ah, late scratches are up. Time for another cup of coffee and further reflection.