May 25, 2024

Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca highlight 12-horse Met Mile

Mor Spirit outclassed his rivals in the Essex at Oaklawn Park on March 18, 2017 (c) @CoadyPhoto

Since being moved to the Belmont Stakes undercard in 2014, the $1.2 million Metropolitan H. (G1) has featured terrific winning performances from Palace Malice, Honor Code and Frosted. Mor Spirit and Sharp Azteca highlight a field of 12 entered for the 2017 edition of the prestigious event.

Installed as the 5-2 favorite, Mor Spirit invades from California for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who will be seeking his first victory in the Met Mile. A Grade 1 winner earlier in his career, Mor Spirit will enter on the upswing following convincing wins in the Essex at Oaklawn Park and Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park, registering a 107 BRIS Speed Rating for a 5 ¾-length decision in the latter. The 4-year-old Eskendereya ridgling has displayed a high cruising speed in recent starts and will keep Mike Smith in the saddle.

A Grade 3 winner last season, Sharp Azteca opened his 4-year-old season in spectacular fashion, posting a 4 ½-length tally in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) that netted a 113 BRIS Speed Rating. The dark bay colt exits a commendable third, beaten only a length, in the Godolphin Mile (G2) in late March and is listed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. The son of Freud promises to be on the engine with his dynamic early foot and Paco Lopez rides for Jorge Navarro.

Rally Cry comes next on the morning line at 5-1 following a sharp April 30 allowance win at Belmont Park that netted a 106 BRIS Speed. The promising sort headed to the season last year following a third in the Easy Goer on the Belmont undercard and the 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt will be seeking his first stakes victory. John Velazquez takes over the reins for Todd Pletcher.

Runner-up in the Gulfstream Park H., Awesome Slew flattered Sharp Azteca when rolling to a 1 ½-length decision in the Commonwealth (G2) at Keeneland. He exits a tough-luck second in the May 6 Churchill Downs (G2), missing by only a head after being stopped and forced to alter course in the stretch, and the improving Mark Casse trainee packs a superb finishing kick, garnering 107-120-102 BRIS Late Pace numbers in his last three outings. Joel Rosario retains the mount aboard the 6-1 fourth choice.

Multiple Grade 3 winner Tommy Macho, third most recently in the Carter (G1), is the second of two entries for Pletcher. He’s an early 10-1 with Luis Saez.

Five horses were pegged at 15-1 on the morning line: Denman’s Call, who captured the Triple Bend (G1) at Santa Anita two back; 2016 Easy Goer winner Economic Model; Oaklawn H. (G2) upsetter Inside Straight; Grade 3 scorer Solid Wager; and Tom’s Ready, winner of the 2016 Woody Stephens (G2) on the Belmont undercard.

Mohaymen is a surprising 20-1 on the morning line. The four-time Grade 2 conqueror wasn’t much of a factor when returning with a fourth to the now-sidelined Connect in the May 6 Westchester (G3), but the 4-year-old colt may have needed the race off a lengthy layoff and remains a candidate for improvement for Kiaran McLaughlin. Jose Ortiz picks up the assignment.

Virtual Machine, a 30-1 outsider, completes the field.