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Tonalist Eyes Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Undercard

Tonalist Eyes Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Undercard: Last year, Tonalist burst onto the scene after winning the Peter Pan at Belmont. While he won his maiden race in his second start over the Gulfstream track, Tonalist has never lost over the Belmont track. His first start over the sandy oval was in his Peter Pan score before he headed into the Belmont Stakes as a fresh horse, a race in which he dethroned California Chrome in his bid to make history.

Tonalist Met Mile 2015 Belmont

Belmont Stakes 2014 winner Tonalist will take to the Belmont Park track on Saturday, June 6, 2015 in the Metropolitan Handicap. Photo: Lauren King, Coglianese/NYRA

Following Tonalist’s victory in the Belmont Stakes, he was a force to be reckoned with throughout the remainder of his three-year-old year. He was second in the Jim Dandy (GII) and third in the Travers Stakes (GI) before defeating older horses for the first time in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup to earn his way into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Classic turned out to be anything but boring due to a controversial call made by the stewards to leave Bayern up after a disastrous start hindered half the field. Tonalist took some time off after the Classic, and he wintered at Payson Park in Florida before making his 2015 debut at Belmont Park in the Grade III Westchester Stakes at a distance of one mile.

This year’s Met Mile, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race, promises to be one of the strongest fields in recent memory. While Shared Belief is no longer in the field, there are plenty of horses that can give Tonalist a run for his money. One is Wicked Strong, a son of Hard Spun who finished in a dead heat with California Chrome for fourth in the 2014 Belmont Stakes. After the addition of blinkers, Wicked Strong seemed to be a fresh horse. He won the Jim Dandy (GII) at Saratoga only to be surprised at the wire in the Travers (GI) by his stablemate, V. E. Day. However, Wicked Strong had a rough trip in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) that resulted in him clipping heels with Moreno and losing jockey Rajiv Maragh. Wicked Strong did not compete in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and made his 2015 debut in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap but could only manage a fourth-place finish there. He then finished third in the Grade III Excelsior.

While Tonalist is bred to easily get the one-mile distance asked of him in the Met Mile, other horses are as well. Private Zone is currently at the top of his game and recently defeated Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern in the Churchill Downs Stakes (GIII) going seven furlongs. Private Zone has also proven his ability to handle a mile as he was second in the 2013 Cigar Mile and first in 2014. This son of Macho Uno is fast and consistent. Look for him to be a primary threat to Tonalist.

Pedigree plays a huge part in racehorses. Looking briefly at Tonalist’s pedigree, one will see his sire is the mighty Tapit who broke the record for earnings in a single season last year, nudging out perennial leader Smart Strike. The stallion sired two classic winners last year in Tonalist in the Belmont and Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

On the bottom of Tonalist’s pedigree, one will find loads of stamina. His dam, Settling Mist, was nothing but a maiden winner, it took her nine furlongs to get the job done. Her sire, Pleasant Colony, is the main source of stamina close to the front half of Tonalist’s pedigree. Pleasant Colony won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before finishing third in the Belmont Stakes in 1981. Also, Buckpasser can be found in the fifth generation of Tonalist’s pedigree, giving a good indication as to why Tonalist is both fast and able to carry his speed over long distances of ground.

Tonalist has the makings of a top older horse. If he can win the Met Mile, he could easily join the list of the horses who have won the race in the past and gone on to be extraordinary sires.

The 147th running of the belmont Stakes takes place on Saturday, June 6, 2015 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The third and final jewel of the Triple Crown will be the eleventh race scheduled for 6:50 p.m. ET and will air on NBC. See full stakes schedule.

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