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Handicapping the 2015 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont

Handicapping the 2015 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont: The Metropolitan Handicap, or the Met Mile, is deeply rich in history and this year, one of the best fields in recent memory have assembled to possibly take home a GI victory on Saturday, June 6, 2015 at Belmont Park, which some of these entrants do not have, surprisingly enough. This year, while both Shared Belief and Palace Malice are out on leave, the 2014 Belmont Stakes winner, Tonalist, seeks to defend his title of being the Ruler of Belmont and take home yet another graded stakes. However, this task may not be so easy for him. This field is loaded.

Tonalist Metropolitan Mile

Last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist returns to the Belmont Park track for the Metropolitan Mile on June 6, 2015. Photo: Susie Raisher, Coglianese/NYRA

Private Zone (Macho Uno – Auburn Beauty, by Siphon) – Private Zone has been a highly consistent horse in his older years. He is coming into this race off a sharp, easy win in the Grade Two Churchill Downs Stakes, where he defeated Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion, Bayern. While many toss out Bayern’s performance, Private Zone is a hardy type who thrives on competition. He has a lot of early speed, so the one hole shouldn’t a problem for him.

Bay of Plenty (Medaglia d’Oro – Kotuku, by A.P. Indy) – Bay of Plenty seems outrageously outmatched here, but he is also undefeated at Belmont. His trainer seems only run horses where he thinks they can be competitive and he has the guidance of Mike Smith for this big race. The son of Medaglia d’Oro is Grade Three placed and has the pedigree to run all day. He likes to be on the lead, so there is going to be plenty of speed for his competition to run at.

Noble Moon (Malibu Moon – Mambo Bell, by Kingmambo) Noble Moon has not won a race since January 2014, when he surprised in the Jerome Stakes (Grade II). Since then, his only on the board finish came last out in an allowance optional claiming at Aqueduct. His pedigree suggests he should be able to handle a mile easily, however, this colt does not belong here.

Tonalist (Tapit – Settling Mist, by Pleasant Colony) Johnny Velazquez gets the mount on this Tapit colt that helped his sire become #1 in 2014. Tonalist had an uncharacteristic fifth place finish in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic but rebounded after wintering in Florida when he returned to Belmont last month to win the Grade Three Westchester Stakes. He may be a slight favorite here and rightfully should be. Keeping him off tickets is a mistake for any handicapper.

Tamarkuz (Speightstown – Without You Babe, by Lemon Drop Kid) This Dubai-based horse was last seen wining the $1 million dollar Godolphin Mile over determined Sloane Avenue. The colt was transferred to Kieran McLaughlin and has been preparing with strong workouts over the Belmont main track. He is coming into his American debut on a four-race win streak. He definitely has the pedigree to be a strong competitor, but can he make the switch from Dubai to America successfully?

Wicked Strong (Hard Spun – Moyne Abbey, by Charismatic) This multiple graded stakes winner is hoping to return to his winning ways when he comes into this race, but with such a strong field, he is really going to have to step it up. He only has a fourth and a third this season, so he is really going to have to dig deep to come out on top. There is a lot of speed, on paper, in this race, and he should get a perfect stalking trip and get a jump on the closers.

Bayern (Offlee Wild – Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch) Bayern is coming into the Met Mile with only a last place finish in his 2015 debut. He finished 6th of six in the Grade two Churchill Downs Stakes, going seven furlongs, to Private Zone. He should be more fit for this race and Baffert usually has this horse ready to fire. He is going to go to the lead, and is going to have company. If he burns himself out during a duel, look elsewhere. Every time Bayern has had company on the lead, he has faltered.

Pants on Fire (Jump Start – Cabo de Noche, by Cape Town) In 2015, Pants on Fire has a win and a show to his credit. He did finish a good third in the Grade Two Churchill Downs Stakes going seven furlongs last out. It is no doubt that a mile is Pants on Fire’s best distance, and he is the oldest horse in the field, bringing experience. However, can he be competitive in a field of this caliber? Arguably, this field is twice as good as the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile field was, where he finished a distance third behind Goldencents and Tapiture. Consider using this guy underneath.

Honor Code (A.P. Indy – Serena’s Cat, by Storm Cat) This colt was a top threat for the Kentucky Derby in 2013 as a two-year-old and then was injured in the beginning of his three-year-old year, and then came back at the end of 2014 to win impressively in an allowance. He then won the Grade Two Gulfstream Park Handicap over Private Zone, Valid, and Wicked Strong. He last was seen finishing an uncharacteristic fifth in the Grade Two Alysheba Stakes behind Protonico. With the speed signed on here, he should have a great chance to make a dent in the race with his huge closing kick. Leave him out at your own risk.

Kobe’s Back (Flatter – Well, by Well Decorated) This gorgeous son of Flatter was last seen winning the Grade Three Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland, traveling seven furlongs. This four-year-old was originally considered for the 2014 Kentucky Derby, but quickly fell off that path and pursued sprinting. He should have a great pace to run at, but he has to answer the class question. Possibly consider using underneath.

The Met Mile is shaping up to possibly be the race of the year, unless American Pharoah steals the spotlight with a Triple Crown. However, this race is going to be one of the best races on the Belmont undercard.

For the hardcore handicapper, this race could turn into one of the races to figure out this year. For the less experienced, watch this race and apply knowledge to another race. This is likely to be a very, very difficult race to play. The Metropolitan Handicap is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Casey’s Picks: 1,4,9,5 Superfecta box. Single the #4 (Tonalist) as well.

The 2015 Metropolitan Handicap is the 8th race of the day on Belmont Stakes day at Belmont Park. Coverage of the Belmont Stakes begins at 4:30 PM ET on June 6, 2015 on NBC.

Metropolitan Handicap 2015 Post Positions & Odds
Race 8 4:49 PM ET
1 Private Zone 4-1 Pedroza/Navarro
2 Bay of Plenty 20-1 Smith/McLaughlin
3 Noble Moon 30-1 Ortiz/Gyarmati
4 Tonalist 5-2 Velazquez/Clement
5 Tamarkuz 10-1 Ortiz, Jr./McLaughlin
6 Wicked Strong 6-1 Rosario/Jerkens
7 Bayern 7-2 Garcia/Baffert
8 Pants On Fire 15-1 Lopez/Breen
9 Honor Code 6-1 Castellano/McGaughey III
10 Kobe’s Back 20-1 Stevens/Eurton