Joel Rosario celebrates after Knicks Go won the Pegasus World Cup Invitational horse race Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
- The Belmont Stakes undercard in New York is loaded and includes seven Grade 1 races before the feature
- The $1 Million Met Mile features Breeders Cup Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go
- How should we bet the Metropolitan Handicap, and find value throughout Saturday’s card?
Aside from the Breeders Cup, Saturday’s card at Belmont Park is as good as it gets in horse racing. Very simply, there are a lot of high quality races.
With the action starting at 11:35 am EST, and ending after 8 pm, the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap is one of three Breeders Cup Win & You’re In contests on the docket on Belmont Stakes Day.
While the main event will get most of the attention, with volume comes opportunity.
Let’s look carefully at the Met Mile, and briefly discuss the other high end races on the Belmont undercard in New York.
2021 Metropolitan Handicap Odds
|By My Standards||+1000|
Odds as of June 2nd
Race number nine on Saturday begins at 4:42 pm EST and can be viewed on NBC Sports Network. A one turn mile with a small field, three of the six horses have earned over $1 million. The Met Mile has been run since 1891.
2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Odds Tracker
John Velazquez has ridden the Metropolitan winner a record five times. Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana have won the race in two of the last three years.
Knicks Go has had an interesting 19 race career. A five year old, he won twice in 2018, failed to prosper in eight races as a three year old, and last year was spectacular. He went three-for-three in 2020 including a victory at the Breeders Cup.
His record setting performance at Keeneland led to another romp, when he easily won the Pegasus World Cup in January. Trainer Brad Cox then chased a $20 million purse at the Saudi Cup. He ran an uncompetitive fourth when Charlatan beat him to the early lead and set fast fractions.
Knicks Go may posses controlling speed in this spot, which is very dangerous if he is allowed to dictate terms while holding the advantage early on. On the flip side, returning from the Middle East and running a top race is always a major challenge.
A winner of three straight, Mischevious Alex is coming off of his first Grade 1 victory.
While Alex has beaten just seven rivals over his past two races, and there is some question about whether he wants to run a mile as opposed to six or seven furlongs, there is no knocking six wins in his last eight starts. He should sit just behind Knicks Go and get the first opportunity to challenge the favorite.
Silver State has won five consecutively and made a really strong move from behind in April’s Oaklawn Handicap.
Trained by Asmussen, and ridden by Santana, it’s unclear whether he prefers a little bit longer race than a mile. He should be rolling late.
Last year the late developing Dr Post kept running into top competition. Three straight races he fell to Belmont winner Tiz The Law, Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, and Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide. His debut this year was a dandy.
While Dr Post didn’t face top competition last time out, he won convincingly at the same track and same distance he will encounter today. Velazquez will be his jockey.
By My Standards won four times in eight starts last year and his losses came against top competition. He opened this year with a hard fought victory.
It has been a long time since By My Standards was put into a race with just one turn. A winner of $2 million, he is plenty classy enough if he takes to the track and orientation.
Met Mile Best Bet
Knicks Go has earned $4.6 million but there is no way of knowing how he’ll react in his return from the Middle East. Taking a short price while running around one turn for the first time since 2019 seems undesirable.
Silver State has the right connections, is running great, and needs Knicks Go to feel just a little pressure in order to sit the perfect trip. A repeat of any of his last five races gives him a serious shot so long as Knicks Go doesn’t run his “A” race.
Pick: Silver State (+350)
2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Odds Tracker
Saturday’s Other Graded Stakes Races
The first stakes race of the day, the seven furlong Woody Stephens for three year olds, begins at 12:47 pm. The Acorn, for three year old girls going a mile, is slated for just after 2:00 pm. At 2:41 pm three year old turf horses try the Jaipur Stakes. The half-million dollar Ogden Phipps Stakes for older girls going a-mile-and-a-sixteenth on the dirt is at 3:18 pm. Also $500,000, the Just a Game Stakes features older girls going a mile on the turf at 3:58 pm. Between the Met Mile and Belmont Stakes, at 5:38 pm the Manhattan Stakes is a-mile-and-a-quarter for boys on the turf.
Woody Stephens Stakes
Six horses are entered and three of them all appear to want the lead. That could lead to a fast pace and set up a stalker, or maybe Jackie’s Warrior will run crazy quick and still hold on like he did on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.
Jackie’s Warrior has five wins in seven starts and he is unbeaten at a mile or less. His only two losses have come to Belmont favorite Essential Quality.
Dream Shake had the perfect setup and just missed against Jackie last time out. If the pace is hot again, he’ll stand a big chance from just off the pace.
Caddo River and Drain the Clock both tend to do their best running early. Perhaps Caddo River will appreciate cutting back from two turn races.
Pick: Jackie’s Warrior
The Acorn Stakes
On April 30 the girls took center stage at Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky Oaks was a whale of a race at a-mile-and-an-eighth and Search Results just missed. Travel Column set the early pace and may appreciate the cutback here.
Three rivals come out of the 8Belles Stakes from the same afternoon. Obligatory came from way back to win. She returns here along with runner up Dayoutoftheoffice and Make Mischief who finished third.
Dayoutoftheoffice was among the serious pace in that race, and if she can run a little slower early on, could be in a great shape down the stretch on Saturday.
The Jaipur Stakes
British bred Gregorian Chant won his debut in Ireland in 2018, and since then has run all 14 of his races in California. A winner of three straight, in March he just barely beat Sombeyay, who also is in the field today.
Sombeyay followed that outing with another second place performance, this one to Fast Boat in Kentucky. Fast Boat is in this event too, but he is stretching out from his preferred five-and-a-half furlong distance.
Oleksandra won this race last year, but has not run well since. She is three-for-three at Belmont Park.
Pick: Gregorian Chant
Ogden Phipps Stakes
Last year Shedaresthedevil shocked Swiss Skydiver and Gamine to win the Kentucky Oaks. This year Shedaresthedevil is two-for-two and outdueled Letruska in March.
What would have happened in the Azeri Stakes if Shedaresthedevil had a little more pace pressure? Would Letruska have gone by in the stretch? Both horses face off again here, but once more it is unclear whether anyone will challenge Shedaresthedevil early on.
Swiss Skydiver has one win in three tries since winning the Preakness in 2020. Letruska beat her in April.
Valiance is running in her first race since finishing second in the Breeders Cup Distaff in November. She is training well and is certainly capable.
Just a Game Stakes
Top turf trainer Chad Brown has four horses going including Blowout, who won her 2021 debut at Churchill Downs defeating rivals New York Girl, Zofelle, and Abscond.
It’s not likely Blowout will be allowed to get that sizable a lead here, but she loves Belmont Park and this is her favorite distance. Blowout has never finished worse than third in 12 starts.
Pocket Square won her US debut for Brown in a lower level allowance race in April. It was a solid score, and backed up strong European form.
Tamahere has one win in three starts since coming to Brown’s barn last fall. Her seasonal debut at Keeneland in April was a solid second place finish in a Grade 1 race.
Trainer Charles Appleby rarely runs horse in America. The top trainer for Dubai’s Godolphin Stable has two options, Althiqa and Summer Romance. They split two races against each other in the Middle East. Summer Romance has the better European form from 2019 and 2020.
This is a rematch of the battle between Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending in Derby Day’s Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
After a dead heat, there certainly is something to prove for both horses. The horse that finished third in that race came back to win a Grade 1 race in California.
Master Piece won his seasonal debut in a lower level allowance race at Keeneland in April. In two races since coming from Europe, Master Piece has run speed figures that indicate he is as good or better than Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending.
Pick: Colonel Liam