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Jockey Alan Garcia celebrates his Met Mile win aboard Divine Park
The traditional Memorial Day feature at Belmont Park is the $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1), a 1 mile trip around one turn of the main track for 3-year-olds and up. A field of nine went to post in the 115th renewal of the "Met Mile" before a sun-drenched crowd of 12,562, with Commentator sent off as the 11-10 favorite coming off a 13 3/4 length romp in the Richter Scale Handicap at Gulfstream Park on March 8. In to challenge the Nick Zito trainee was 9-4 second choice Divine Park, 5-length winner of the Westchester Handicap last out, and the 2-horse Zayat Stables entry at 6-1, consisting
Divine Park (outside) catches Commentator in the stretch
As expected, favorite Commentator went to the front immediately and set a pace of 22.48, 44.52, and 1:09.61 while being stalked by 7-1 First Defence the whole way. At the top of the stretch, jockey Javier Castellano asked First Defence to challenge for the lead and he closed the gap to just 1/2 a length. The pair battled from the 1/4 pole to the 1/8 pole before First Defence tired to eventually finish fifth. This challenge took its toll on Commentator, however, as Divine Park, who raced back in 6th early, came out four wide into the stretch and ran down the pacesetting favorite with 1/16 mile to go and drew off to win by 2 lengths in 1:36.91 over the fast main track. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to late-running 22-1 Lord Snowdon in third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Divine Park Garcia 6.50 3.40 2 70 8 Commentator Velazquez 3.10 2.60 2 Lord Snowdon Velasquez 5.90 Winning Time: 1:36.91 $2 Exacta 4-8 15.40 $2 Trifecta 4-8-2 115.50
Right: Divine Park in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "We worried about the pace. When you lose quality horses, you just never know. He is an outstanding horse. From Day 1, we never lost confidence in him. The five pounds (from Commentator) helped us out a lot. This race was a little close to the Westchester, but when you have a prestigious race like the Met Mile, whether 22 days or 26 days, you just have to go for it. He's a great horse."
Left: Divine Park returns after winning the Met Mile.
Right: Divine Park in the post parade. Winning jockey Alan Garcia said, "It set up very good for me. My horse was so comfortable and relaxed. I started asking him at the 1/4 pole. He gave me everything I wanted."
Second place finisher and beaten Commentator in the paddock before the race. His trainer Nick Zito said, "It was a great race, we just got a bad break. (Jockey Javier Castellano aboard First Defence) put a lot of pressure on us, first inside to make us 3-wide, and then outside. It was just too much pressure on us. It took him out of his race, and carrying top weight (122 pounds) didn't help. But I'm not complaining. He's a great horse and I've very proud. The Whitney (at Saratoga) would possibly be his next start."
His jockey John Velazquez said, "He tried so hard, it was unbelievable, but it set up for someone else. He put out everything I asked him to give. The way the race set up, that's what I was afraid of. He kept running, and by the 1/16 pole, he flattened out."
Third place finisher Lord Snowdon heads out for the track before the race. The 22-1 shot wad checked at the start and raced at the tail of the field for the first half mile under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, but came out four wide to pass tiring horses and closed well to get third place money, beaten 3 1/2 lengths. The Anthony Dutrow trainee improved his record to 8 wins, 7 seconds, and 3 thirds in 29 starts, earning $421,810 for owners Sanford H. Robbins LLC and P and D Kaplan Racing.
Sheepshead Bay Handicap - results and photos from Saturday, won by Mauralakana
Vagrancy Handicap - results and photos from Sunday, won by Looky Yonder
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