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ELMONT, NY – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s McKinzie returns to Belmont Park for Saturday’s $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) seeking vengeance for his 2019 runner-up finish.
The winner of the Met Mile will receive an automatic position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
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“I think any time you win a Grade 1 on the east coast, it’s pretty important, especially at Belmont and Saratoga,” Baffert said. “It’s like hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium; it means something.”
Here is a look at the full field for Saturday’s Met Mile:
#1 Network Effect – Though no match for the runaway winner in the 7-furlong Carter Handicap (G1) here on June 6, he ran well to take second over a sloppy main track. Prior to that, the Florida native defeated fellow state-breds in the Big Drama Stakes and has finished first or second in 7 of his 8 career starts.
#2 Vekoma – He dominated Network Effect and six other foes by 7 1/4 lengths in the Carter, his second win from as many starts this year that includes the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He broke his maiden on debut over this course in 2018 and won a pair of Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races before finishing 13th in the main event, his final 2019 start.
#3 McKinzie – A troubled stretch may have cost him a victory in last year’s event, which he reaffirmed when taking the Whitney Stakes (G1) next time out. His 2020 debut was a rare non-effort as he finished last of 11 in the $20 million Saudi Cup, but he rebounded impressively to win the 7-furlong Triple Bend Stakes (G2) last time out and may be returning to last year’s form.
#4 Hog Creek Hustle – He upset last year’s Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) over the local course and was a nose behind repeating that in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga one month later. A win here would make Vickie Foley the first woman to ever train a Met Mile champion.
#5 Code of Honor –The multiple graded stakes winner made an impressive 2020 debut here on June 6, winning a muddy edition of the 1 1/16-mile Westchester Stakes (G3). Though he won last year’s Travers Stakes (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at 1 1/4 miles, he also took the Dwyer Stakes (G3) over this same course and distance.
#6 Endorsed – He nearly earned his first stakes score last time out in the Westchester, running ahead of Code of Honor until late in the race. Cutting back slightly in distance could work to his advantage, should a similar stretch duel occur, and he has shown a propensity for the local course, having won a 6-furlong allowance last June.
#7 Mr Freeze – The multiple graded stakes winner cuts back to what may be his best distance, having won both the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) and the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) while covering 8 furlongs on dirt. He possesses tactical speed that allows him to either press or stalk the pace depending on how the race unfolds, making him a threat every time he runs.
#8 Warrior’s Charge – The expected pacesetter enjoys playing “Catch me if you can” with his rivals and often succeeds in holding them off, having won 4 of his past 6 starts. He won his first stakes event at Oaklawn Park in February’s Razorback Handicap (G3) and was most recently second in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) behind By My Standards, who ran second in last weekend’s Stephen Foster Stakes (G2).
The Runhappy Met Mile serves as race 9 on the Saturday card at Belmont Park. The track will also host the Manhattan Stakes (G1), the Suburban Stakes (G2), the Poker Stakes (G3), and the Victory Ride Stakes (G3).
The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on July 18 at Monmouth Park with the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) (Longines Classic). The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.
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