05/25/2009 12:00AM

Met Mile looks like fast one

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Bribon, winner of the Grade 3 Westchester on Belmont's opening day, is the Met Mile's 3-1 morning-line favorite.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The Metropolitan Handicap, much like the Kentucky Derby, has proven an elusive prize for trainer Todd Pletcher. Since 2001, Pletcher has started eight horses - including three favorites - in this prestigious Grade 1 event, but has come up short with each one.


Perhaps coming in under the radar as he will with longshots The Roundhouse and Ready's Echo in Monday's $600,000 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap will help Pletcher get the job done. In a race with no clear-cut favorite, but plenty of pace, The Roundhouse and Ready's Echo have as good a shot as any in the 116th renewal of the Met.

"Hopefully, it unfolds with as much speed as it looks like it could on paper," Pletcher said. "Both of our horses are deep closers, so they'll be well back early. Hopefully, they get a good trip through some traffic and have the pace unfolds like it says it should."

Of the 12 horses in the race, there are three confirmed speedsters in Accredit, Riley Tucker, and Driven by Success. Mr. Fantasy, who was also expected to be part of the pace, was scratched Sunday by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin because of a temperature. He will now try to make the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 6, McLaughlin said. A fast pace would also set things up nicely for Bribon, the 3-1 morning-line favorite based on his opening-day victory in the Grade 3 Westchester.

The Roundhouse is certainly bred to be a Grade 1 winner. He is by the Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus out of the Grade 1-winning mare Circle of Life. He is a half-brother to the Grade 1 winner Circular Quay. The Roundhouse was a stakes-placed 2-year-old who missed his entire 3-year-old season last year because of a fractured knee and complications from that injury.

In his second start of his 4-year-old season, he won a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream before finishing third behind Met Mile opponents Accredit and My Pal Charlie in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day. In that race, The Roundhouse rallied seven wide in the stretch, when the place to be was the rail.

"He was closing very well at the end, he just got going a little too late," Pletcher said.

The Roundhouse will break from post 6 under Edgar Prado.

His stablemate Ready's Echo will break one spot to his outside under John Velazquez. Ready's Echo finished third in the 2008 Belmont Stakes before heading to turf and Polytrack for his next three races. He won a first-level allowance over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 18.

"I think he's a horse that does a number of things well and we haven't identified exactly what his specialty is," Pletcher said. "The key to his success is when he has a good pace to run at."

While Bribon is a logical choice, he has never won back-to-back races in his 26-race career, though he just missed in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile after winning an allowance race three weeks earlier. Bribon took advantage of a hot pace to win the Grade 3 Westchester in his last start, which followed a fourth-place finish to Smooth Air in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

"The Gulfstream Park Handicap was just a strange race the way it ran," said Robert Ribaudo, trainer of Bribon. "So if that's the case, then in theory, he's got three nice races back to back to back."

After winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Smooth Air was scheduled to run in the Texas Mile at Lone Star Park on April 25. He was forced to scratch from that race because of colic. Trainer Bennie Stutts believes he has gotten enough training into the horse to have him ready for this spot.

Imperial Council is a 3-year-old taking on older horses for the first time in his career. Honour and Glory, in 1996, was the last 3-year-old to win the Met Mile. Three-year-olds usually get a significant weight break when they meet older horses, but with the Met Mile highweight being 118 pounds, that won't be the case.

Mr. Sidney, a Grade 1 winner on turf, will try to transfer that form to dirt. Runforthedoe was a Group 1 winner in Brazil, but also finished second with a late kick in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. He is trained by Paulo Lobo, who won this race in 2004 with the Brazilian-bred Pico Central.