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Big crowd lining up for Met Mile
ELMONT, N.Y. - With no clear-cut favorite and interest high from the connections of several 3-year-olds, this year's running of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day could draw as many as 15 horses when entries are taken on Friday.
Bribon, winner of the Grade 3 Westchester over this track on opening day, and Smooth Air, winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in his last start, figure to vie for favoritism in what is shaping up to be a wide-open affair with plenty of early speed. Smooth Air will likely be the starting highweight at 118 pounds, while Bribon and My Pal Charlie, winless in five starts since taking last year's Super Derby, are both in at 117 pounds.
Accredit, who defeated My Pal Charlie in the Churchill Downs Handicap, is in with 116, followed by Mr. Sidney (115), winner of the Maker's Mark Mile on turf last out. Famous Patriot, Ready's Echo, Riley Tucker, Runforthedoe, and The Roundhouse are all in at 114, while Driven by Success is in at 113. Three-year-olds get a significant break in the weights, and three of them are under consideration - This Ones for Phil (110), Mr. Fantasy (109), and Imperial Council (108). Formidable, a 4-year-old trained by Allen Jerkens, is also possible at 113 pounds.
On Wednesday, Bribon worked four furlongs in 48.12 seconds over Belmont's training track. It is the only published work Bribon will have between the Westchester and this race, but trainer Robert Ribuado said the horse is plenty fit.
"That's as much as you want him to do," said Ribaudo, who added the horse worked a slow half-mile in 52 seconds last week that didn't make the work tab.
Ribaudo, whose horse comes from off the pace, doesn't mind the large, pace-filled field.
"The more the merrier," he said.
Also working Wednesday for the Met Mile were Imperial Council, who went a half-mile in 49.32, and Mr. Sidney, who worked a half-mile in 47.84 in company with stablemate J Z Warrior.
In his work, Mr. Sidney started about five lengths behind J Z Warrior, but quickly pounced on him. Mr. Sidney, who had Kent Desormeaux in the irons, then drifted several paths off the rail turning for home and lost ground to J Z Warrior before closing the gap to about three-quarters of a length at the finish.
"He ran to his company a little early, so [Desormeaux] obviously took him to the outside so he'd have a target again," said Bill Mott, trainer of Mr. Sidney.
Commentator to skip Met Mile
One horse that won't be in the starting gate for Monday's Met Mile is Commentator. Trainer Nick Zito said he is looking for an easier spot for Commentator to use as a prep for the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap in Saratoga Aug. 8. Commentator, the 8-year-old New York-bred gelding, won the Whitney in 2008 and 2005.
Commentator has run one race this year, a fourth-place finish in the Charles Town Classic on April 18. Commentator came back to work a quick half-mile in 47.60 at Churchill Downs on May 5. Zito said that he gave jockey Julien Leparoux "a speeding ticket" for that drill. Commentator has since been moved to Zito's Saratoga stable, and on May 16 he worked a slow half-mile in 50.01 under Maxine Correa.
Regal Ransom preps for Woody Stephens
Regal Ransom, the eighth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, worked a strong five furlongs in 58.46 seconds Wednesday morning over the main track, and will make his next start in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont undercard.
According to Belmont clockers, Regal Ransom went his first quarter in 23 seconds and was caught galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.60.
"He went off a little quicker than we'd have liked, but he still finished up pretty good," said Rick Mettee, who oversees the New York stable of Shiekh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing. "When he's good, he's going to work fast. We'll slow him down for his next work, but he's doing well."
The Woody Stephens is run at seven furlongs, the distance of Regal Ransom's debut victory last summer at Saratoga.
Mettee said that Vineyard Haven, the winner of last year's Hopeful and Champagne, has resumed light training at Belmont, but is just jogging. Mettee said Midshipman, last year's 2-year-old champion, is still tack-walking the shed row.
Music Note to debut in Phipps
Music Note, runner-up to Proud Spell for champion 3-year-old filly honors last year, is on target to make her 4-year-old debut in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap here on June 13, Mettee said.
Music Note won 4 of 6 starts last year including the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Gazelle - all Grade 1 events - over Belmont's main track. Her lone loss on dirt came by a head to Proud Spell in the Alabama at Saratoga. She ended her 3-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
Music Note wintered in Kentucky and returned to the work tab in early April. On Tuesday, she worked a half-mile in 48.47 seconds over Belmont's main track.
"She looked super, finished up good," Mettee said. "She should be able to make the Ogden Phipps."
Mettee said Cocoa Beach, away since finishing second in the Ladies' Classic, is a little bit behind Music Note and may not run until Saratoga.
Mettee said Seventh Street, winner of the Apple Blossom, will be nominated to the Phipps, but is more likely to run in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, also on June 13.
Criticism tops Sheepshead Bay field
Criticism, front-running winner of the The Very One and the La Prevoyante this year in south Florida, heads a field of eight entered for Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes.
Criticism, owned by Darley Stable and trained by Tom Albertrani, is 7 for 17 in her career, including 3 of 5 since coming to North America. Though she won the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap from off the pace last November at Aqueduct, she seems even better when able to secure the early lead. Javier Castellano will ride Criticism from post 3 under high weight of 120 pounds.
Backseat Rhythm is one of two horses entered by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Colina Verde is the other.
Backseat Rhythm is 3 for 3 over the turf courses at Belmont Park, including a half-length victory in the Grade 1 Garden City here last September. She won the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa in March before finishing a dull fifth in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in her last start.
Also entered in the Sheepshead Bay are Venetian Causeway, Shadiyna, Mushka, Russian Rosie, and Caprice.
* Though he worked horses in the morning, Desormeaux took off his mounts Wednesday afternoon due to illness, according his agent, Mike Sellitto.