05/21/2007 11:00PM

Breeders follow Met Mile cast


LAS VEGAS - The Metropolitan Handicap, first run in 1891, is the most prestigious of all Grade 1 mile races. Based on the adage that milers make the best stallions, the Met is the race that breeders covet more than any other.

Some of racing's legendary horses and Hall of Fame inductees have won the annual Memorial Day event, including Native Dancer (1954), Sword Dancer (1959), Kelso (1961), and Buckpasser (1967). Forego won consecutive renewals (1976, 1977) as did Gulch (1987, 1988). Conquistador Cielo defeated older runners in the Met and parlayed that into a Belmont victory in 1982.

Winners during the 1990s who became successful sires include In Excess (1991), Holy Bull (1994), Honour and Glory (1996), Langfuhr (1997), and Wild Rush (1998). Offspring by the first crop of Aldebaran (2003 Met winner) are 2-year-olds and he is already the sire of a maiden winner, while recent Met winners, Pico Central (2004) and Ghostzapper (2005) do not yet have runners of racing age. Silver Train, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint as a 3-year-old in 2005, returned at 4 to win last year's Metropolitan Handicap.

Corinthian, Lawyer Ron, and Utopia are among those expected for a competitive renewal of the Met Mile on Monday.

While it is doubtful that any of this year's runners are Hall of Fame material, they are a talented group that should put on quite a show. The competitive field is expected to include some of the following:

* Corinthian was a cantankerous 3-year-old last year who crossed the finish line first in Fountain of Youth but was disqualified to third. He has blossomed into a formidable 4-year-old. His only loss in three starts this year was in the Excelsior Handicap when he leapt in the air as the gate opened, losing all chance. A line can be drawn through that non-race, and on his best day Corinthian must be considered a major player. A victory by the royally bred Corinthian would particularly enhance his value at stud, especially since he is from a stallion-making family.

By Pulpit, his dam, Multiply (by Easy Goer) has produced three quality racehorses in Corinthian, Desert Hero and the promising Vitruvius, who was scratched from last weekend's Peter Pan Stakes due to a skin rash. His fourth dam, Special, produced champion racehorse and sire Nureyev, as well as Fairy Bridge, the dam of champion racehorse and sire Sadler's Wells.

* Lawyer Ron, one of last year's better 3-year-olds, has won both of his starts this year, including the Oaklawn Handicap, and is a perfect fit at the one-mile distance. A victory would emulate his sire, Langfuhr, who won the Met Mile in 1997, defeating Western Winter and Northern Afleet (the sire of Afleet Alex).

* Utopia (Forty Niner) won the Westchester Handicap in his last start and might be favored in the Met Mile off that scintillating performance. A multiple Group 1 winner on the dirt and turf at one mile, as well as 1 1/4 miles in Japan, he captured the Godolphin Mile last year. His second dam is a full sister to stakes winner Miss Tokyo, and his third dam is a half-sister to Best Turn. His fifth dam, Miz Clementine, is a half-sister to Two Lea, a champion on the track and as a broodmare. Two Lea produced champion Tim Tam, and stakes winners On-and-On (sire of Forward Pass and Sweet Tooth, the dam of Alydar) and Pied D'Or.

* Silver Wagon (Wagon Limit), a grandson of Conquistador Cielo, won the Hopeful Stakes at 2, and has turned into a sprinter-miler specialist who usually delivers if there is a hot pace to set up his late rally. Second in the 2005 Met behind Ghostzapper, he won the Carter and General George Breeders' Cup handicaps this year.

* Silent Name, who won the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes over Keeneland's Polytrack, adds intrigue to the field. A son of the late Sunday Silence and out of a Danehill mare, Silent Name is bred primarily for turf and must be considered suspect on dirt until proven otherwise.

* Sun King, who has had many close runner-up finishes in major stakes, was second in last year's Met Mile and was second to Utopia in the Westchester. A strong pace would aid his powerful late run.

* Latent Heat, winner of the Malibu Stakes and San Carlos Handicap, was fourth in the Carter, and is another colt well-suited to one mile. By 2-year-old champion Maria's Mon, he is out of multiple stakes producer True Flare, who descends from a top-class Greentree Stable female family that produced Buckaroo, Stop the Music, Hatchet Man and Vision and Verse.

* Political Force showed promise at 2, finishing second in the Nashua Stakes, but after a disappointing season at 3, he is having a good year at 4, finishing third in the Skip Away and Westchester handicaps. A victory in the Met, combined with his speedy pedigree (Unbridled's Song out of multiple stakes winner Glitter Woman) would significantly increase his value as a stallion.

* Ah Day won the Federico Tesio Stakes last year and has placed in a number of stakes sprints this year. He won the Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel and was second in the General George Handicap and Churchill Downs Handicap. He also finished third in the Carter Handicap. By the underrated Malibu Moon (sire of 2-year-old champion Declan's Moon), his third dam is Comely Stakes winner Stacey d'Ette.

* Chatain won this year's Hal's Hope Handicap, and he has great miler speed, as would be expected of a son of Forest Wildcat. Chatain gets stamina from his damsire Red Ransom. His dam, Roujoleur, was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Walter. His third dam, L'Enchanteresse, is a half-sister to Arbees Boy, who defeated Forego in the 1974 Met Mile.