ELMONT, NY –  In a race full of expectations, it was the always consistent Mitole that came out on top to win Saturday’s $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park. Mitole’s win here today was his seventh consecutive dating back to March of last year and his third consecutive stakes win after first-place finishes in the G3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap and G1 Churchill Downs Stakes in his last two starts.

The Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Mitole receiving an automatic berth in the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, November 2.

Coal Front shot out of the gate and went straight to the front. Mitole also broke well and sat just off the leader alongside Promises Fulfilled who also got up well to sit just off of Coal Front in the early going. Thunder Snow sat just a bit further back in fourth with the rest of the field tight in behind. The 8-5 favorite, McKinzie meanwhile broke poorly and was forced to take up the rear as Coal front on the lead set fractions of :22.17, :44.38, and 1:08.24.

Into the turn, Coal Front maintained his lead but started feeling pressure from Mitole on the outside. Promises Fulfilled also moved up to the front around the turn and by the top of the stretch Coal Front, Mitole, and Promises Fulfilled and drawn even, three-wide across the track. McKinzie, with jockey Mike Smith aboard also moved up into striking position but got stuck between horses and had to wait to make a final move.

As they made their way down the stretch, it was quickly apparent that Mitole was the best of the front runners as he moved up to become the lone leader with a clear shot to the finish. Thunder Snow moved up well well on the inside to get within range of the leaders but couldn’t catch Mitole on the front end. With about a furlong left to go, a hole finally opened up for the favorite McKinzie, and he quickly shot through it with an impressive burst of speed. Despite his best efforts, it was too little too late for the favorite as he watched Mitole cross the line first. McKinzie settled for second in a photo ahead of Thunder Snow in third and Promises Fulfilled was forth.

The remaining order of finish was Firenze Fire in fifth followed by Pavel, Coal Front, Tale of Silence, and Prince Lucky.

“This is really a special horse,” said jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. “I can’t explain how happy I am with this horse. He can come [from the] back, he can go in front, you can put him between horses and he always keeps trying his best. Today, we delayed as long as we can. He’s a really amazing horse.”

Photo Credit: NYRA – Viola Jasko

The Steve Asmussen trainee Mitole, a four-year-old son of Eskendereya, was bred in Kentucky by Edward Cox Jr. and is owned by William and Corinne Heiligbrodt.

“He’s obviously a very special horse,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “To beat the horses that were second and third obviously speaks for itself. To come out on top today, we are extremely proud of him. We will love on him and pet on him for a while, enjoy the victory and then regroup and decide what to do with him the rest of the year.

Mitole returned $9.00 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.50 to show. McKinzie brought back $3.30 to place and $2.70 to show, while Thunder Snow paid $3.70 to show.