This weekend I’ll be handicapping each of the $500,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 Memorial Day races at Belmont Park.
One of my favorite spring races, I’m glad to see that the Met Mile has achieved Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge status. It truly is one of the defining races for talent, and while we have a disappointingly small field this year, several good horses are stepping it up to win this big G1.
$1 million Metropolitan Handicap (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 mile on dirt at Belmont Park. Post Time: Monday, May 28 at 5:47pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) To Honor and Serve - Jose Lezcano, 120 lbs, Bill Mott - The 4-year-old Bernardini colt was a standout as a juvenile, and came back after a long layoff to take the Pennsylvania Derby (II) in record-time followed by a bad trip in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I), followed by a shutout win in the Cigar Mile (I). His works looks like he digs Belmont plenty. I profited off some doubters when he won the Westchester (III) last out by 5 lengths, and I have every reason to believe this is a top class four-year-old. I don’t think the mile is his best bet long-term, but he’s a lot like last year’s winner Tizway where he obviously rocks at it.
2) Shackleford - John Velazquez, 119 lbs, Dale Romans - Last year’s Preakness (I) winner, the Forestry colt had a rocky year full of some excellent performances where he fell just barely short including a runner-up to Caleb’s Posse in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I). His recent win in the Churchill Downs Stakes (II) over Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I) winner Amazombie proved he’s back to peak. He gets an upgrade in jockey with Johnny V. As long as he keeps looking good in the morning, I see little reason to doubt Shackleford, who is every bit an excellent miler, but he could fall victim to an early duel for the pace or need to be the one to set it up.
3) Caleb’s Posse - Rajiv Maragh, 121 lbs, Donnie Von Hemel - The Posse colt was arguably last year’s best three-year-old, and while he hasn’t won yet as a four-year-old, he’s been sharply close. He was second to Jackson Bend in the more recent Carter (I) with a too-late kick and second to Caixa Eletronica in the Tom Fool (III), where the winner was most confident on the surface. I expect him to do his patented late burst in the final sixteenth, and the connections are obviously going to want to win this one more than anything. The extra furlong will definitely boost Caleb (Carter was 7, Tom Fool was 6).
4) Saginaw - David Cohen, 115 lbs, David Jacobson - Here’s your underdog: the 6-year-old gelded son of Peruvian has started an astounding 27 times and has reeled off 5 straight wins this year from the claiming ranks to ungraded stakes in New York. He may scratch in favor the May 27 Kingston Stakes. He won the 7-furlong Affirmed Success by 7 lengths last out at Belmont and looks to help set a contentious fast pace.
5) Caixa Eletronica - Javier Castellano, 117 lbs, Todd Pletcher - Mike Repole’s rags-to-riches star, the 7-year-old Arromanches son was a surprising 3rd in last year’s Met Mile and last out won the Charles Town Classic (II) by 3 lengths— surprising stuff for a career miler to win a G2 1 1/8 mile race! Works are consistently good, and he has yet to finish off the board while at Belmont in three tries. His form is spotty at best and hard to figure out. I’m leaving him out.
6) Jackson Bend - Corey Nakatani, 121 lbs, Nick Zito - The “Mighty Mouse” son of Hear No Evil has been promising as always with 2 wins in 3 starts this year including the Carter Handicap (I) over Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford. A pacestalker, he has won in the past no matter how fast things are moving (or not) but is considered stronger at 7 furlongs.
Top Picks in Order:
1) To Honor and Serve
2) Caleb’s Posse
Only picking 2 because of small field with at least 1 likely scratch. I see Shackleford setting it up, To Honor and Serve putting in a fresh stretch run to hold off Caleb’s Posse and Jackson Bend.
Value Pick: Jackson Bend