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2023 Met Mile Preview & FREE Picks | Cody’s Wish Headlines Breeders’ Cup Prep At Belmont Park
Cody's Wish (Sue Kawczynski/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Met Mile Preview & FREE Picks | Cody’s Wish Headlines Breeders’ Cup Prep At Belmont Park

Mike previews the 2023 Met Mile (G1) from Belmont Park, then gives his top picks & long shots from this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The defending Breeders’ Cup Mile champ Cody’s Wish headlines 1 of the biggest stallion-making races in America, but is his fairytale 5-race win streak in jeopardy? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

The touching story of Godolphin’s homebred Cody’s Wish is made even more so with each victory he adds to his accomplished resume. The 5-year-old son of Curlin will look to build upon an already memorable list of achievements for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, a one-turn mile for older horses, at Belmont Park.

The “Met Mile,” carded as Race 10, features five Grade 1 winners and awards the winner with a berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Santa Anita Park as part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series.

The Met Mile is one of nine graded events slated for the June 10 card at Belmont Park, led by the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 12. First post on the 13-race card is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.

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Cody’s Wish exits a facile score in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on May 6, closing from last-of-9 under returning rider Junior Alvarado to take the lead at the top of the stretch and lengthen his winning margin to 4 3/4 lengths. He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in his 5-year-old debut.

“He’s doing well. He’s won at a one-turn mile several times,” said Mott. “In different races, he’s been a little closer than others, but he’s not one to be right up on the pace. He just gets his feet under him and comes with a pretty good run.”

The well-documented Cody’s Wish vies to add another poignant chapter in the fairy tale career he has put together since debuting in June 2021. The bay horse was named for young Cody Dorman, a teenager with the rare genetic disorder Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Dorman visited Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, K.Y. via the Make a Wish program when Cody’s Wish was an unnamed foal and was introduced to the curious colt while touring the farm. The colt showed a profound patience, gentleness and connection with the wheelchair-bound Dorman, touching the hearts of all on the farm and leading Godolphin to name the foal after his new friend.

Cody’s Wish has more than proved worthy of his name, entering the Met Mile on a five-race win streak that includes three consecutive Grade 1 victories at three different racetracks. Cody’s Wish broke his maiden at fourth asking in a one-mile maiden tilt in October 2021 at Churchill Downs. He won his next two starts against winners and finished second in the Grade 3 Challenger by a neck last March at Tampa Bay Downs. He was away from the races until that May when he posted his breakout score in the Grade 3 Westchester over a sloppy and sealed Big Sandy with Junior Alvarado in the irons for the first time since his debut.

He followed with a determined neck score in the listed Hanshin on July 4 at Churchill, setting him up for a try at Grade 1 glory in the seven-furlong Forego at Saratoga Race Course in August.

Cody’s Wish entered with an impressive win streak that he compiled at racetracks across the East Coast, but was left cold on the board at odds of 8-1 as he entered the starting gate to the outside of heavy post-time favorite and 2021 Champion Male Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior.

Unsettled in the gate, he broke near the rear of the field under a calm Alvarado, who held his position as Jackie’s Warrior and Pipeline dueled through swift fractions. Cody’s Wish was roused by Alvarado entering the turn and came within 2 1/2 lengths of Jackie’s Warrior at the top of the stretch while racing seven-wide. The tenacious colt dug down gamely under left-handed urging and powered down the lane to overtake Jackie’s Warrior and win by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:20.95, just .55 seconds off the track record. He earned a field-best 112 Beyer for the effort.

Cody’s Wish was impossible to ignore heading into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland, where he was sent to post as the 2-1 favorite and closed from 12 lengths off the pace to win a dramatic stretch battle with Cyberknife and earn his first victory around two turns, delighting Dorman and his family as they watched from the apron. He did not race again until six months later when taking the Churchill Downs with the Dorman family in attendance once again.

Mott, despite having won an impressive list of prestigious American Grade 1 races, has yet to saddle a Met Mile winner. When asked about the possibility of notching his first win in this event, Mott said, “It’s been on my bucket list.” 

Alvarado, who is also in search of his first Met Mile victory, retains the mount from post 1 [126 pounds].

Dual Grade 1-winner Dr. Schivel makes his first trip to the East Coast for conditioner Mark Glatt on the heels of an impressive 4 1/4-length allowance win on May 13 at Santa Anita Park that garnered a career-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

Owned by Red Baron’s Barn, Rancho Temescal, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and William A. Branch, the son of Violence has quietly posted a notable list of accolades dating to a 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in his 2-year-old season.

The bay horse was then transferred to Glatt and did not start again until a win in a second-level optional claimer in June 2021 at Santa Anita to kick off a productive sophomore campaign that was topped by another Grade 1 score in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar, besting Eight Rings by a neck. He won the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship next out before being defeated a nose by Aloha West in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. His sophomore campaign ended with an uncharacteristic seventh in the Grade 1 Malibu, which was won by subsequent 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline.

Glatt praised the talented Dr. Schivel and said the timing of the Met Mile is perfect for his return to top-level company.

“He’s been a quality horse from Day One,” Glatt said, “Based off his comeback race, it fits well in his schedule as far as availability goes. It’s a big day of racing on Belmont Day, it’s a good purse and it fits very nicely into our plans.”

Dr. Schivel will exit post 3 in rein to Irad Ortiz, Jr. [121 pounds] for the first time.

Whisper Hill Farm’s homebred graded stakes-winner Charge It seeks his first Grade 1 victory for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of Tapit fits in among the top contenders of the field in terms of speed figures with a career-high 111 Beyer Speed Figure when taking the Grade 3 Dwyer by 23 lengths here in June.

Charge It did not race again last year after his impressive performance and returned victoriously in a February optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. He finished second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile one month later at the Hallandale Beach oval and made his last start with an even fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 22 at Oaklawn Park.

Pletcher said he is confident Charge It has the ability to win a race like the Met Mile.

“He’s a horse that’s shown enormous talent,” Pletcher said. “We know he’s got a big one in him, we just need him to put it all together.”

Charge It seeks to provide Whisper Hill Farm with their second Grade 1 conquest after their homebred Tapit Trice, who competes in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets for Pletcher and co-owner Gainesway Stable, won the Grade 1 Blue Grass earlier this year.

Whisper Hill Farm has famously purchased accomplished racemares at public auction, including one of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, Songbird, for $9.5 million in 2017, and two-time Champion Havre de Grace for $10 million in 2012. Pletcher praised Whisper Hill Farm and the efforts they have put into producing quality racehorses.

“Whisper Hill has developed a really strong broodmare program,” said Pletcher. “It’s nice to see their program coming together and producing horses like this.”

Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez [120 pounds] has the call from post 5.

Jeff Drown’s Zandon, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, may be in search of his first victory since then for trainer Chad Brown, but brings a consistent and competitive record of on-the-board finishes in 5-of-6 starts since. The son of Upstart finished a close third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy ahead of two more Grade 1 placings in the Travers [third] and Pennsylvania Derby [second]. He closed out his season with a game fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct.

Zandon made his seasonal bow with a runner-up effort to fellow Met Mile contender Repo Rocks in the Grade 3 Westchester on May 5 here when rallying from sixth-of-7 under Dylan Davis and showing a good turn of foot in the turn and into the stretch. Zandon was unable to collar a runaway Repo Rocks but battled back gamely with the oncoming Weyburn to hold onto second by three-quarters of a length and earn a 101 Beyer for the effort.

Brown said he expects Zandon to improve greatly off his last performance.

“The Westchester was good and it looked in the late stages that he fought for second like a horse who really needed the race,” Brown said. “The Ragozin came back fast. I think this horse is really going to move forward. We’re going to find out.”

Flavien Prat returns to the irons for the first time since the Travers when he rides from post 6 [122 pounds].

Fellow Grade 1 winners White Abarrio [post 9, Tyler Gaffalione, 120 pounds] and Doppelganger [post 8, Jevian Toledo, 120 pounds] are both in search of their first trips to the winner’s circle since the spring.

C2 Racing Stable and Antonio Pagnano’s White Abarrio, trained by Rick Dutrow, Jr., was last seen winning a seven-furlong optional claimer by 4 1/2 lengths on March 4 at Gulfstream when in the care of trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.

He earned a 103 Beyer for the win, which was his first since winning last year’s Grade 1 Florida Derby. His best stakes results since were a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby and third-place finish, beaten a half-length, in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Doppelganger, owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm and trained by Brittany Russell, sprung a 17-1 upset win in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets last out at Aqueduct.

The bay son of Into Mischief provided both Russell and jockey Jevian Toledo with their first career Grade 1 wins and made it three victories in a row to boast an undefeated record since being transferred from the barn of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for this campaign.

Completing the field are:

  • Reddam Racing’s California homebred Slow Down Andy [post 2, Mario Gutierrez, 120 pounds], a last-out third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for conditioner Doug O’Neill
  • Dream Team One Racing Stables’ dual Grade 1-placed Hoist the Gold [post 4, Luis Saez, 119 pounds] for trainer Dallas Stewart
  • Double B Racing Stables’ multiple graded stakes-winner Repo Rocks [post 7, Ruben Silvera, 122 pounds], who enters from his Grade 3 Westchester victory for trainer Jamie Ness