Saturday, May 28, 2011

Met Mile Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

The Met Mile is always one of the best races of the year, and this renewal is no exception. While 1 1/4 miles is considered the "Classic American distance," a flat mile always seems to bring together the best fields. It's a distance that bridges the gap between routers and sprinters--especially when run on a track with a one-turn configuration. This field is somewhat different, though, in that almost every runner's proven best distance is this one. The conversation must start with expected favorite Haynesfield, who validated his lofty accomplishments last year with a very nice second in the Cigar Mile while turning back off a disappointing BC Classic performance. He's probably the most talented runner in this field at his best, but his comeback run in the Westchester was a bit dull. Yes, the pace he pressed was fast, but winner Caixa Electronica was the one carving out the splits. He could improve second time back, but has run very well off the bench before. He's obviously a contender, but Haynesfield won't offer much wagering value in as wide open a Grade I as we've seen all year.

When Tizway runs his race, he is very good. His two highest Beyers (105 and 106) were earned over track and trip and came in last year's running of this race (when third) and a five-length victory in the Kelso in October. His Kelso is pretty difficult to poke holes in, and was flattered when third-place finisher Jersey Town pulled off the Cigar Mile shocker with a gaudy 111 Beyer. Fourth-place runner Caixa Electronica--a contender in here--has also run well since, and sixth-place finisher Regal Ransom has run deceptively well this year. Tizway was then given an unfortunate ride in the BC Dirt Mile--he was much too close to an extremely fast pace. He returned in the Gulfstream Park H. and couldn't get by Tackleberry and was passed by Soaring Empire to lose second by a nose, but the pace was crawling and the winner had every reason to keep going in the lane. Trainer James Bond is just 2-for-26 with a dismal $0.86 ROI bringing horses back off lay-offs at Gulfstream over the past five years (courtesy of DRF Formulator), so that race alone is not solid enough evidence that the two foes he reunites with here are better than or equal to him. Tizway went longer over a sloppy Charles Town surface last time and was a decent third with a low-for-him 95 Beyer. Despite his pedigree, he has never seemed to love the slop and has always done his best at a one-turn mile. I'd excuse that effort and expect a big jump forward third off the lay-off, a category Bond hits at 29% in on the dirt.

Ibboyee is the least-heralded of Todd Pletcher's three Met Mile contestants, but his performance last time to be a close third in the Churchill Downs S. behind stablemate Aikenite was jaw-dropping. Completely distanced in the early going behind a pace that was slow to average for that group, he zoomed down the lane, getting his final furlong in :11.62. It's usually dangerous to expect a closer at shorter distances to automatically improve with added ground, but Ibboyee did his best running last year in routes. His two figures this year--100 and 99--aren't high enough to win this, but with an expected jump up with a return to a longer distance and adjustments for his trip, Ibboyee is very capable of upsetting this group at a big price. Caixa Electronica's aforementioned performance in the Westchester was very good and came while setting fast splits first off the claim for team Pletcher/Repole. There isn't a ton of early speed signed on here, and there's no reason Caixa Electronica can't set reasonable fractions and hold on or remain close late. Soaring Empire defeated Tackleberry, Caixa Electronica, MGISP Rule and GI Carter winner Morning Line in the Hal's Hope, and has run his three fastest races at this distance. He appears to be working very well since his second-place finish in the GP H., but how he'll take to the Belmont surface is a minor concern. His only previous race here was a dull fourth in last year's Dwyer.

Tackleberry is a likeable sort, but has built his reputation by setting slow paces in his own backyard. The Charles Town Classic last time was his only race outside of Florida, and while there were other factors that may have been at play, it was a decidedly weak effort compared to what he shows every time in his home state. That was also the first time owner/trainer Luis Olivares has shipped a horse out of Florida in the past five years--he has started more than 960 times in The Sunshine State over that period of time. Tackleberry will be very underlaid. Aikenite will also be overbet. He has been the beneficiary of luck and surfaces playing to his favor recently and, while his connections have correctly decided to keep him at one turn, this event might be a furlong longer than optimal for him.

Tizway would offer fair win value at 4-1+ and is worth playing at that price, but Ibboyee is also a win bet candidate at what should be double digit odds. Some combination of those two, Caixa Electronica and Soaring Empire could yield a decent exacta and Yawanna Twist, Haynesfield and Kensei can be tossed in the third slot in trifectas. I'll also use my top four in the Pick 4.

No comments: