Charles Fipke homebred Bee Jersey was sharp early and determined late, holding off a furious final charge from Mind Your Biscuits by a diminishing nose to run his win streak to four in an all-star edition of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap Saturday at Belmont Park.
The 125th running of the Met Mile for 3-year-olds and up was one of nine graded stakes, six of them Grade 1, during a 13-race program on the finale of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival highlighted by Justify’s quest to become the 13th Triple Crown champion in the 50th renewal of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
As a designated “Win and You’re In” event for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, the Met Mile victory earned Bee Jersey an all-fees-paid trip to Churchill Downs November 3. It was the first career win in the prestigious race for both Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Bee Jersey completed the mile in 1:33.13 over a fast main track for his first career Grade 1 victory. He returned $8.50 for a $2 win bet as the 3-1 favorite in an accomplished field of 11 – all of them graded-stakes winners, five of them millionaires – that collectively had won 26 graded-stakes and nearly $12 million in purse earnings.
“He’s a tremendous horse with a lot of talent. We’re very fortunate that Mr. Fipke sent him to us and I’m glad he was able to win the Met Mile today. We all know what the race means,” Asmussen said. “The draw was perfect for him. It played out the way we wanted. He broke cleanly, Ricardo got away with a very soft first quarter then they applied pressure on him from there.
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“He’s a fabulous miler. This was the goal with the horse at the beginning of the year and now I think we’ll regroup from here and think of how to get him to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the best condition,” he added. “[At the sixteenth pole] he looked good. When he got away from there cleanly like he did, I loved it. He picked it up to the wire.”
Winner Breaks Sharp
Bee Jersey broke sharply from Post 10 and cruised up to his customary spot at the front, given modest early pressure from multiple Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro to his inside during an opening quarter-mile run in 23.08 seconds. One Liner took over as Bee Jersey’s main challenger as they went the half in 45.71 and six furlongs in 1:09.28.
Met Mile Replay
Mind Your Biscuits, racing for the first time since his second straight victory in the Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen March 31 that pushed his career earnings over $3.7 million, put himself in contention leaving the backstretch, swinging to the outside as Bee Jersey straightened for home with a one-length lead.
Bee Jersey, winner of the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park in his previous start, kept on to the wire as Mind Your Biscuits came with a steady, eye-catching drive on the outside, only to lose the head-bob. It was 5 ¼ lengths back to Limousine Liberal in third.
“The horse broke sharply like he always does. We were sitting in a nice spot; I loved the position I was in for the first quarter. I slowed down and he came back to me,” Santana said. “He was in a great position and when I turned for home I let him go a little bit. He ran an amazing race. My horse is a fighter and he showed it today. He was waiting for the other horses and when my horse felt [Mind Your Biscuits], he took off again. He gave me a second kick to pass the wire first.”
Mind Your Biscuits carried topweight of 122 pounds under the handicap conditions, four fewer than Bee Jersey. Discreet Lover, sent off at odds of 79-1, finished fourth and was followed past the wire by Ransom the Moon, McCraken, Good Samaritan, Awesome Slew, One Liner, Warrior’s Club and Bolt d’Oro.
All four of Bee Jersey’s wins during his streak have come at the mile distance. The Met Mile’s winner’s share of $650,000 pushed his career bankroll to $976,312 in 10 starts, five of them victories.