Runhappy Met Mile 2020 preview


Longtime fans of Thoroughbred racing no doubt have fond memories of spending their Memorial Day watching horses like Ghostzapper, Holy Bull, Forego, Arts and Letters, Buckpasser, and Kelso shine in the Metropolitan Handicap. After spending the last six years on the Belmont Stakes day program, the COVID-19 pandemic and revised racing schedules have led to the Met Mile returning to a holiday program. On Saturday, the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap will top a great card at Belmont Park with five graded stakes and once again bring several of the nation’s best horses together for a one-mile showdown. Fans may not be able to attend the races at Belmont Park, but the Met Mile will be must-see TV.

Saturday’s 127th Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap will be televised live during a broadcast on NBC, running from 5 to 6 p.m. ET. Coverage is also available to stream live on and on the NBC Sports app.


Racetrack: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.

Date: July 4

Purse: $500,000

Distance: 1 mile

Race: 9

Post Time: 5:47 p.m. ET

Notable winners: Ghostzapper (2005), Holy Bull (1994), Fit to Fight (1984), Conquistador Cielo (1982), Forego (1976-77), Arts and Letters (1969), Buckpasser (1967), Carry Back (1962), Kelso (1961), Native Dancer (1954) and Tom Fool (1953)

First held: 1891

The field:

1. Network EffectHe was second to Vekoma last time out in the Carter Handicap, but was 7 ¼ lengths behind his fellow Met Mile starter. A wet track may have worked against him and being trained by Chad Brown is a plus, but the last time he ran in a race like this, which was last year’s Cigar Mile, he was eighth.

JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.  TRAINER: Chad Brown


2. Vekoma: We just mentioned his victory in the Grade 1 Carter, which was ultra-impressive. He’s returning off four weeks’ rest, but it will be his third race after a layoff off nearly 11 months. The third time is often the charm in situations like that, and given the keen speed he possesses he should be forwardly placed and figures to be in a nice spot turning for home. Whether he can fend off some serious late challenges is the key question, but he belongs in the trifecta.

JOCKEY: Javier Castellano TRAINER: George Weaver


3. McKinzieWhen Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert puts one of his horses on a plane, you can rest assured that runner is well-meant. McKinzie had a rough trip in last year’s Met Mile and might have been best when he finished second. A repeat of that performance should be enough to gain some revenge this year, but he may not be at the top of his game and could wind up in the place spot once again.

JOCKEY: Mike Smith TRAINER: Bob Baffert


4. Hog Creek HustleIt’s been more than a year since his last victory in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens at Belmont Park. He has some late kick and could sneak into the superfecta but it’s hard to imagine him upsetting a field this good.

JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz TRAINER: Vickie Foley


5. Code of HonorThe two wins on his resume that stand out are the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles, but don’t be fooled by that. He was an easy winner of the Dwyer Stakes and was second at two in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, both at a mile at Belmont Park. He had a highly beneficial 2020 debut while winning the Westchester for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey earlier in the meet and seems poised for a winning effort here.

JOCKEY: John Velazquez TRAINER: Shug McGaughey


6. Endorsed: He made Code of Honor work hard in the Westchester, putting up a good fight before losing by a half-length. His best races in stakes have been at distances more than a mile and these conditions, and the level of the competition, may not suit him.

JOCKEY: Joel Rosario  TRAINER: Bill Mott


7. Mr Freeze: He was razor sharp this winter in Florida, finishing second in the Pegasus World Cup and winning the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Mile decisively, but then he settled for third in the Oaklawn Handicap. He has not been worse than third in his last seven starts and his last two wins were in one-turn mile stakes, yet he seems a notch below the top choices.

JOCKEY: Manny Franco  TRAINER: Dale Romans


8. Warrior’s Charge: He seems to have the most early speed and may not get pressed all that hard in a field that lacks another speedster with his early zip. He has been getting better recently, and from the outside post he has the kind of determination that makes him a major threat to wind up in the exotics.

JOCKEY: Florent Geroux  TRAINER: Brad Cox

THE PICK: Code of Honor

LIVE LONGSHOT: Warrior’s Charge


The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series on NBC Sports rolls on with the Met Mile on July 4 from 5 to 6 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app. 

Forte is slight 5-2 favorite for Belmont Stakes over stablemate Tapit Trice

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Forte is finally getting a crack at running in a Triple Crown race. The colt, who was scratched the day of the Kentucky Derby, is the early favorite for the Belmont Stakes.

Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion, was made the slight 5-2 favorite for the grueling 1 1/2-mile race.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the colt will break from the No. 6 post in the nine-horse field at Belmont Park. Pletcher’s other horse, Tapit Trice, is the 3-1 second choice and drew the No. 2 post.

Forte was the early Derby favorite, but was scratched by Kentucky officials the morning of the May 6 race because of a bruised right foot. He was on a vets’ list that kept him out of the Preakness, but has since come off it.

“He’s doing great, he’s training really well. He hasn’t missed any training,” said Mike Repole, co-owner of Forte. “We still think this is the best 3-year-old in the crop and he’s going to prove that.”

Mage, the Kentucky Derby winner, is skipping the Triple Crown finale after finishing third in the Preakness on May 20.

Angel of Empire is the third choice at 7-2. He finished third in the Derby and is one of three horses in the race trained by Brad Cox.

National Treasure, the Preakness winner trained by Bob Baffert, is 5-1. He drew the No. 4 post.

Arcangelo is 8-1 and will break from the No. 3 post. He is trained by Jena Antonucci, who will try to become the first woman trainer to win the Belmont.

The other four entries are listed at double-digit odds.

The Belmont field, in post position order, with jockeys and odds:

Tapit Shoes, Jose Ortiz, 20-1; Tapit Trice, Luis Saez, 3-1, Arcangelo, Javier Castellano, 8-1; National Treasure, 5-1, John Velazquez; Il Miracolo, 30-1, Marcos Meneses; Forte, 5-2, Irad Ortiz Jr.; Hit Show, 10-1, Manny Franco; Angel of Empire, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Red Route One, Joel Rosario, 15-1.

Preakness winner National Treasure has final workout for Belmont Stakes

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Preakness winner National Treasure breezed five furlongs in his final workout for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes this weekend.

Working on the main track at Belmont Park with exercise rider Erick Garcia aboard, National Treasure was timed in 59.55 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.20 and seven furlongs in 1:25.20. It was the second workout on the track for the Bob Baffert-trained colt.

“He worked very well this morning,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant. “It’s a big track and you can find yourself lost out there. Erick did an excellent job working him and now we’re just waiting for the race.”

National Treasure was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby before the Preakness on May 20.

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Red Route One also posted his final work for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, breezing a half-mile in 50.20 seconds over Belmont Park’s dirt training track.

“I thought he went beautiful,” said Toby Sheets, Asmussen’s Belmont-based assistant. “It was nice and fluid and he came back with good energy. I’m very happy with him. We wanted to be out on the track before it got really busy.”

Red Route One finished fourth in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, almost five lengths behind National Treasure.

Kentucky Derby winner Mage is not running in the Belmont Stakes.