Star-Studded Line Up for G1 Met Mile

June 3, 2024

Pegasus WC champ National Treasure (in his last California work before going to New York) faces off with BC Classic champ White Abarrio. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Saratoga

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Multiple Grade 1-winning millionaires White Abarrio and National Treasure, both returning from a jaunt to the Middle East, and 2023 Grade 1 Preakness runner-up Blazing Sevens headline a star-studded cast of characters in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap for 3-year-olds and up traveling one mile out of the Wilson Chute at Saratoga Race Course. The 131st running of the Met Mile offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar.

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which spans Thursday through Sunday, is highlighted by the 156th edition of the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, June 8. The four-day Festival will include 24 stakes races with purses totaling $10.25 million, the highest purse levels and number of stakes offered since the launch of the multi-day Festival in 2014.

C2 Racing Stables, Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Antonio Pagnano’s White Abarrio ran third behind eventual Horse of the Year Cody’s Wish in last year’s Met Mile, his first start since being transferred to trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr. He went on to win the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park and finished second in Horse of the Year voting.

 “He looks tremendous, to tell you the truth. He really does. It’s so fun to watch him train and race. He just looks great,” Dutrow, Jr. said. “I think he might have gotten a little bit bigger since he first came to us. I don’t know how much he’s developed since he was pretty well-developed by the time he got to us, but just little things here and there that have made him better.”

The 5-year-old White Abarrio has raced just once this year, finishing 10th in the Group 1 Saudi Cup February 24 at King Abdulaziz Racetrack, his 16th career start, first since the Breeders’ Cup and one that left his connections scratching their heads.

“I don’t have an explanation. He just didn’t show up. I have no idea why,” Dutrow, Jr. said. “We’re very excited to watch him run again.”

Following the Saudi Cup, Dutrow backed off White Abarrio with an eye on the Met Mile. In his only other race at Saratoga, White Abarrio sprung a 6 1/4-length upset of the Whitney at odds of 10-1, a race where Cody’s Wish ran third.

“It means a whole lot to him,” Dutrow, Jr. said. “He really showed up on this track last year so we kind of pointed him to this race after his last one. It just made a lot of sense.”

A three-time Grade 1-winner with more than $5.1 million in purse earnings, White Abarrio shows eight timed works since early April at Belmont Park for his return, the most recent a sharp half-mile move in 47.20 seconds May 29. Irad Ortiz, Jr. gets the return call from the outermost post 6 at topweight of 126 pounds yielding from 1-to-8 pounds to his five rivals.

“To us, with his training, we’re so happy knowing that he is on it. We’ve kind of really got our hopes up high that he runs his race up there because he’s been showing us that he is really ready,” said Dutrow, Jr., who previously won the Met Mile with Silver Train in 2006.

“Everyone that breeds, and races wants to win the Met Mile. It’s such a great race to win. And now for the first time it’s at Saratoga, which is extremely exciting, on Belmont Day,” he added. “Everything’s there for us to go up and try to get it done.”

Also exiting the Saudi Cup, where he ran fourth 1 1/2 lengths behind Senor Buscador, is SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s National Treasure. 

Trained by Bob Baffert, National Treasure kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with a popular and determined neck triumph over Senor Buscador in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup January 27 at Gulfstream Park. He, too, didn’t return to the work tab until mid-April and has continued to please his Hall of Fame conditioner, who saddled Mor Spirit to a Met Mile win in 2017.

 “We got him back from Saudi and freshened him up a little bit. He’s been doing really well. This race was on the radar a little bit but after his [May 25] work I liked what I saw. He was back to himself. He worked really well again [June 1]. I liked the way he went and he’s up for it,” Baffert said. “It’s going to be a tough race, but he’s a good horse when he shows up. I like what I’m seeing.”

National Treasure was a front-running head winner of the Preakness last spring following a stretch-long duel with returning rival Blazing Sevens. He went on to run sixth in the Belmont, fifth in the Grade 1 Travers in his only previous trip to Saratoga, and fourth in the Grade 1 Awesome Again before being beaten a nose by Cody’s Wish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, both over his home course at Santa Anita.

“He ran extremely well in the Breeders’ Cup. This is a one-turn-ish kind of race, and you don’t know how they’re going to react to that. But he’s doing well,” Baffert said. “These Grade 1s, especially at Saratoga, they’re so competitive.

“He’s always been a good horse, but you have to ship and everything. A lot can happen between now and then,” he added. “I don’t get ahead of myself. So far everything’s great. We’re very happy with him. He’s on his game, and that’s all you can ask for. You just need some luck, some racing luck.”

Flavien Prat gets the riding assignment from post 2 at 125 pounds.

Blazing Sevens winning an AOC at Aqueduct April 20. (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)
Blazing Sevens winning an AOC at Aqueduct April 20. (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

Rodeo Creek Racing’s Blazing Sevens was a 3 1/4-length winner of the Grade 1 Champagne in the fall of 2022, then went winless in five subsequent starts, including a third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass and his second in the Preakness. He raced just once more at 3, finishing third as the favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin at Saratoga, and returned to capture a one-mile optional claiming allowance April 20 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, Blazing Sevens joins White Abarrio as the only Met Mile participants with a win over the Saratoga surface, his coming on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight in July 2022. 

“This horse has come back healthy this year, after having needed some time off last year,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a really tough race, and a big step up for him. But, you know, he nearly won the Preakness last year and I think he deserves a chance.”

By multi-millionaire Good Magic, he will have Manny Franco in the irons from post 4 at 122 pounds.

Dream Team One Racing Stable’s well-traveled Hoist the Gold has the most Saratoga experience in the field with two seconds from four starts, the most recent coming in September 2022. Winner of the Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland and Grade 2 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets last year, the 5-year-old son of Mineshaft this year has run fourth in the Pegasus World Cup, 14th in the Saudi Cup and fifth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Churchill Downs May 4.

Trained by Dallas Stewart, the winner of nearly $1.3 million in lifetime earnings will have Hall of Famer and five-time Met Mile winner John Velazquez up from post 5 at 120 pounds.

Hillwood Stable’s Post Time ships in from Maryland for Brittany Russell, looking to become the first female trainer in history to win the Met Mile. A 4-year-old son of 2016 Met Mile winner Frosted, Post Time strung together four consecutive stakes wins over the fall and winter, including the Grade 3 General George at Laurel Park and Grade 2 Carter presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct, before having the streak ended when second as the favorite in the Grade 3 Westchester going one mile May 3 at Belmont at the Big A.

Post Time drew post 3 with Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, aboard for the eighth straight race, carrying 120 pounds.

Completing the field is Castle Chaos, owned by Sanford J. Goldfarb, Nice Guys Stables and trainer Robert Falcone, Jr. The 6-year-old son of 2014 Met Mile winner Palace Malice is chasing his first graded-stakes victory, having run third in the Cigar Mile, second in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper January 27 at Gulfstream and, most recently, second by a neck to Post Time in the Carter.

Castle Chaos will leave from post 1 with jockey Dylan Davis at 118 pounds.

The Met Mile is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s lucrative 14-race Belmont Stakes Card, headlined by the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 12. The card will also feature seven additional graded events in the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino Manhattan in Race 11; the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps presented by Ford in Race 7; the Grade 1, $500,000 Jaipur presented by Resolute Racing in Race 9; the Grade 1, $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun in Race 8; the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban in Race 6; the Grade 2, $350,000 True North presented by F.W. Webb in Race 4; and the Grade 3, $350,000 Poker in Race 5. First post is 10:45 a.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.belmontstakes.com/event-info/tv-schedule.

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