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Owner Edward P. Evans leads Quality Road and jockey John Velazquez down Victory Lane after the 2010 Metropolitan Handicap
The $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1), popularly referred to as the "Met Mile", is the traditional Memorial Day feature at Belmont Park, featuring top older horses and some 3-year-olds going 1 mile around 1 turn of the main track. A field of 8 went to post on Monday, before 9,386 fans under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 80's. As expected, Quality Road was sent off as the 1-4 favorite exiting two straight wins at Gulfstream Park in the Hal's Hope (G3) and Donn Handicap (G1). In to challenge him included 8-1 second choice Musket Man, third in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) on Kentucky Derby day after finishing a close second in the Carter (G1) at Aqueduct, and 9-1 third choice Warrior's Reward, who was second in the Churchill Downs Stakes after winning the Carter.
Quality Road leads down the stretch
Jockey John Velazquez sent Quality Road to the lead and down to the rail soon after the start, and he set quick opening fractions of 22.55 ad 45.19 while being stalked 1/2 a length behind by 20-1 Le Grand Cru down the backstretch. On the far turn, Warrior's Reward moved up to challenge as Le Grand Cru dropped back, but Quality Road continued to lead by a length through 3/4 in 1:08.57. Quality Road opened up a 2 length lead at the 1/8 pole, as Musket Man came through between horses to challenge. However, Quality Road easily held him off late by 1 1/2 lengths at the line, completing the trip in 1:33.11 over the fast track. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back from Musket Man to 24-1 Tizway third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Quality Road Velazquez 2.50 2.10 2 10 3 Musket Man Dominguez 3.50 2.90 2 Tizway Maragh 5.50 Winning Time: 1:33.11 $2 Exacta 7-3 12.20 $2 Trifecta 7-3-2 71.00 $2 Superfecta 7-3-2-1 356.00
Left: Quality Road in the winner's circle.
Right: Quality Road returns after the race. His trainer Todd Pletcher, winning his first Metropolitan Handicap said, "When you consider he was spotting the runner-up 7 pounds and coming off a 4-month layoff. John said he kind of spanked him one time, to give him a friendly reminder to keep to the task to the finish line, but it seemed like he had something left and galloped out really, really well. He's such a versatile horse. He set a track record at Saratoga at 6 1/2 furlongs and two track records at Gulfstream at 1 1/8 miles, and he showed today he's a brilliant miler. He took the race to everyone and kept on. Just brilliant. We'll see how he comes out of this. There might be a race between now and the Whitney, or not. We could take a look at the Suburban, but you want to make sure he's still peaking in November, too, so you want to be careful how many times you take him over there. But my first impression was that this was not a taxing race."
Left: Quality Road in the post parade. His jockey John Velazquez said, "The first quarter was easy enough for him, I thought 'let them come and get him.' After that we picked it up, and I felt that we picked it up pretty quick, but he just kept going. I encouraged him going to the quarter pole, just to kind of get his mind on running. He was game today."
Right: Quality Road returns to the barn after winning the Met Mile.
Left: Second place finisher Musket Man returns after the race. His trainer Derek Ryan said, "I thought I had a real chance - I just need to figure out a way to make up two lengths. (Quality Road) is a real horse." Jockey Ramon Dominguez added, "I had an absolutely great trip, my horse settled great and made a huge run. I got a little excited turning for home, but of course the winner didn't really come back at all. I'm very proud of my horse. He ran hard, and he tried hard every step of the way. He ran a winning race, but he just happened to run into a monster today."
Right: Third place finisher Tizway heads out to the track before the race. His trainer H. James Bond said, "He's a good horse; unfortunately, he came around in the wrong year! The glue-on shoes made a big difference this year. If he keeps improving, maybe one day we'll catch this horse (Quality Road) but that's going to be a tough task." Jockey Rajiv Maragh added, "He ran a good race, and tried hard all the way to the wire."
19-1 Ultimate Class battled for the lead with 15-1 More is Better through fractions of 23.69, 47.15, and 1:10.76 over the firm going, with Negligee stalking them in third the whole way. On the far turn, Ultimate Class tired badly and dropped to last, allowing More is Better to take a short lead to the 1/8 pole through a mile in 1:35.03. However, she too would tire from the pace battle, as Check the Label, who was 4th early, came through between horses to take the lead outside the 1/16 pole and drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running 15-1 Crescenda in 1:47.16. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Negligee third.
Full results chart
Left: Check the Label returns after the race. Her jockey Ramon Dominguez said, "At the 3/8 pole there was a little bit of concern because I knew the 1 and 2 fillies (Ultimate Class and More is Better) wouldn't necessarily keep going, and sure enough I found myself on heels, trying to find a way through. I was just pleased that after having to check my filly she was able to be there for me."
Right: Check the Label in the winner's circle with trainer Graham Motion on the far left. Motion said, "It's pretty exciting. She's a really nice filly who's improving, too. I thought at the top of the stretch she might be in trouble, but she is good enough that she was able to overcome it. This filly has changed more than any other I have in the barn; she just keeps getting better, so it's really exciting. I really haven't looked beyond this race. We have plenty of options."
Left: Second place finisher Crescenda returns after the race. The 15-1 shot was pinched at the start and raced in last for 3/4 mile under new jockey Eibar Coa, then came out 5 wide into the stretch for room and rallied to get second beaten 1 1/2 lengths. The Mike McDonald trainee improved her record to 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 starts, earning $85,140 for owner-breeder Bruce Walker.
Right: Third place finisher Negligee behind the starting gate before the race. The 2-1 favorite stalked the pace in 3rd on the outside for 7 furlongs under new jockey John Velazquez, put in a 4 wide bid into the stretch, drew even with the pacesetter at the 1/8 pole but weakened in the final 1/16 mile to finish third beaten 3 3/4 lengths. The John Terranova trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 7 starts, earning $378,254 for owner Sovereign Stable.
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