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Owner Mike Lauffer leads Shackleford down Victory Lane after the 2012 Metropolitan Handicap
Ogden Phipps Hcp. and Acorn Stakes
The traditional feature at Belmont Park on Memorial Day is the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1), a 1 mile trip around 1 turn for older horses. A short field of 6 contested the 119th renewal of the "Met Mile", before 10,577 fans enjoying clear skies and temperatures in the high 80's. To Honor and Serve was sent off as the 8-5 favorite off his wins in the Cigar Mile (G1) and the Westchester (G3). In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Caleb's Posse, second in his last 2 starts, the Tom Fool (G3) and the Carter (G1), and 3-1 third choice Shackleford, winner of the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) last out.
Caleb's Posse (outside) tries to catch Shackleford in the stretch
The Metropolitan Handicap is the first Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race in North America this year. Shackleford is guaranteed a berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He will have his pre-entry and entry fees waived, and will receive a $10,000 travel allowance. Winning trainer Dale Romans said, "He flies back (to Kentucky) in the morning. We have no idea what we're going to do next. This was the goal from the beginning of the year, and we made it here and we'll regroup and figure out what to do to get to the Breeders' Cup."
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Shackleford Velazquez 8.80 4.80 3 10 3 Caleb's Posse Maragh 3.70 2.50 1 To Honor and Serve Lezcano 2.30 Winning Time: 1:33.30 $2 Exacta 2-1 30.20 $2 Trifecta 2-3-1 59.00 $2 Superfecta 2-3-1-5 324.00
Left: Shackleford in the winner's circle. Trainer Dale Romans said, "I knew he was going to finish. It was just a matter of whether they could get by him or not. He's gutsy as they come. Hopefully, he'll get the credit he deserves. He's a spectacular horse. I thought coming off the turn he was going to be tough to get by. When they hit the wire, I thought he won. Ten jumps out, I didn't know whether [Caleb's Posse's] momentum was going to carry him on by us, but when he hit the wire I thought we won."
Right: Shackleford heads to the winner's circle. Jockey John Velazquez said, "I saw the shadow (of Caleb's Posse) coming so I had to go real far out to get him. I was wondering if somebody was in between and was thinking if nobody was there I was going to go straight out, and that's what made me win, because when I came out, he put up a fight. He dug back in big time."
Left: Shackleford in the paddock. Trainer Dale Romans said, "These two have had a good rivalry. It's their fourth time against each other, and they're 2-2. Caleb's Posse is a great horse, and it's a good rivalry. Let's see each other again. It was the race of the year, and it's exciting to have been part of it, win, lose, or draw, with all of those good horses. And it lived up to its billing. To be a nose apart at the wire, I think it lived up to the hype."
Right: Shackleford in the post parade. Jockey John Velazquez added, "He broke so good, so I didn't have to do much, and he was doing it easy. Even as they were chasing him, he was in hand the whole way and that's what I liked about him. Because he was doing it so easy, I didn't have to rush him."
Left: Second place finisher Caleb's Posse returns after the races as his jockey watches the replay of the photo finish. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel said, "We'll get over this (losing three straight by a neck, a nose and a nose). For him to overcome the track bias and run like that, we're very proud of him." Jockey Rajiv Maragh added, "It's real unfortunate to lose a race like this by such a short margin as good as he ran. The track has been fast all day, and it seemed like there was a speed bias. I was just trying to do my thing with my horse and make my move. He did his run. It was an unfortunate loss but a valiant effort."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite To Honor and Serve returns after the race. Trainer Bill Mott said, "I don't think the inside post helped us, that's all." Jockey Jose Lezcano added, "He ran very good. (Shackleford) went to the lead, and Jackson Bend was right there so I had to wait, but he gave me a good race."
Better Lucky (center) wins the Sands Point Stakes over Regalo Mia (outside) and Zultanite
9-1 Preach Tome Daddy went to the lead immediately and set slow fractions of 25.80, 49.74, and 1:13.29 over the firm turf, while stalked by 24-1 Zultanite and 8-1 Better Lucky. Turning for home, Preach Tome Daddy tired allowing Zultanite to inherit the lead, getting 1 mile in 1:36.66, but Better Lucky and late-running Regalo Mia were quickly closing on her. The three hit the linet ogether, as Better Lucky nosed out Regalo Mio for the win in 1:42.75. It was another neck back to Zultanite third.
Full results chart
Left: Better Lucky in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Tom Albertrani said, "I was a little concerned, I thought she'd be on the lead easy. It looked like we were getting a little bit outrun, but Eddie did a great job, just rode with patience and found a seam to get through. The last jump was pretty tight, I said 'I'll settle for a dead heat here!' From past experience, I've seen horses run well in the mud (and then run well on the grass). It's kind of a different angle, you're not always certain it will work, but sometimes it does. It certainly did today."
Right: Better Lucky returns after the race. Jockey Eddie Castro said, "I saved ground all the way. I got a nice position behind (Preach Tome Daddy). Coming into the stretch I moved to the outside and she gave me all that she had. She tried really hard and held for the photo finish."
Left: Second place finisher Regalo Mia in the post parade. The 7-2 second choice was 7th early under jockey Javier Castellano, rallied late but just missed. The Michelle Nihei trainee improved her record to 1 win, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds in 6 starts, earning $137,200 for owner Steve Ciccarone.
Right: Third place finisher Zultanite returns after the race. The 24-1 shot pressed the pace under jockey Ramon Dominguez, gained a short lead midstretch but had to settle for third beaten a neck. The David Donk trainee improved her record to 1 win, 1 second, and 2 thirds in 7 starts, earning $77,250 for owners William Punk Jr. and Philip DiLeo.
On to the Ogden Phipps Handicap and Acorn Stakes also on the card.
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