Oaklawn will be well represented on Belmont Park’s stakes-packed cards Friday and Saturday, notably the prestigious $1.2 Met Mile (G1), a race that could factor into Horse of the Year voting.
Among nine entrants in the Met Mile are Oaklawn stakes winners Coal Front and Mitole, both unbeaten this year.
Coal Front (6-1 on the morning line) overcame post 14 to record a neck victory in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 18 at Oaklawn. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Coal Front won the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile (G2) March 30 in the United Arab Emirates in his only other start this year.
“The win in Dubai was a lot of fun for our whole team,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “To have our first win in Dubai was great but also rewarding because of the horse. He’s had some layoffs along the way and he’s always come back and been remarkably consistent. It was fun to see him get the credit he deserves.”
Coal Front is scheduled to break from the rail Saturday under Jose Ortiz and carry 122 pounds.
Mitole (3-1) is a multiple Oaklawn stakes winner, claiming the $150,000 Bachelor last year and the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 13 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
Asmussen (10) and Santana (six) have combined for 16 training/riding titles at Oaklawn since 2007 and teamed to win last year’s Met Mile with Bee Jersey, an allowance winner in Hot Springs.
Mitole, who is seeking his seventh consecutive victory, is scheduled to break from post 3 and carry 122 pounds.
Probable post time for the Met Mile, which goes as race 9, is 3:46 p.m. (Central).
Saturday’s fifth race at Belmont is the $700,000 Ogden Phipps (G1) at 1 1/16 miles.
The even-money favorite is the Asmussen-trained Midnight Bisou, the country’s top-ranked older filly or mare this year after winning all three starts, including the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 16 and the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14 at Oaklawn.
Midnight Bisou is scheduled to break from post 2 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and carry top weight of 123 pounds. Also entered is Escape Clause (9-2), who finished second, beaten a nose, in the Apple Blossom.
“She’s doing real well,” trainer and co-owner Don Schnell said of Escape Clause. “She has gotten better with age and experience. Ever since we brought her South (from Canada), she’s done pretty good.
“I probably shouldn’t like Midnight Bisou, but she’s a lovely mare and always tries really hard,” Schnell said. “She’s going to be tough to outrun. In the Apple Blossom, we had a little trouble in the first turn when Wonder Gadot came over on us and it took her minute to get back into stride, but that’s just an excuse and I don’t like to make excuses. We’re just hoping for a clean trip and that the best horse wins.”
Probable post time for the Ogden Phipps, a Breeders’ Cup Distaff “Win and You’re In” event, is 1:01 p.m. (Central).
Nitrous and Landeskog, 1-2, respectively, in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes April 27, are scheduled to meet again in Saturday’s $400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs.
Probable post time for the Woody Stephens, which goes as race 8, is 3:04 p.m. (Central). Nitrous and Landeskog are 10-1 and 12-1, respectively, on the morning line.
“He’s doing really, really good,” Doug O’Neill’s assistant trainer Leandro Mora said of Landeskog. “He’s going up the ladder. I like him a lot for the seven-eighths.”
Sonneteer (10-1) is entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (G2) for older horses at 1 ½ miles. Sonneteer won the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes in 2018 at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Brooklyn Invitational, which goes as race 13, is 7 p.m. (Central).
Oaklawn maiden special weights winner Intrepid Heart (10-1) is entered in Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown. Intrepid Heart, who adds blinkers, is scheduled to break from post 8 under Hall of Fame jockey Jorge Velazquez and carry top weight of 126 pounds.
The lightly raced Intrepid Heart, who will only be making his fourth career start, makes up for experience with one of the strongest pedigrees in the race and has been impressing his trainer with his training as has his stablemate.
“I think Intrepid Heart is clearly bred for this race,” Pletcher said. “He’s by Tapit, who’s had a lot of success in the race. He’s out of a Touch Gold mare. Touch Gold won the Belmont. He’s a half to Commissioner (second in the 2014 Belmont). If you look at his pedigree, it’s AP Indy and Seattle Slew. There’s Just a lot of Belmont history supporting his pedigree. And, out of the three Triple Crown races, I think pedigree plays the biggest role in this one.
“In addition to that, Intrepid Heart and (other Belmont starter) Spinoff have both trained similar to our other Belmont horses that were successful here. Intrepid Heart’s last breeze, I had him galloping out a mile in 1:38 3/5.”
Probable post time for the 1 ½-mile Belmont, which goes as race 11, is 5:37 p.m. (Central).
Friday’s Belmont card includes the $250,000 True North (G2) at 6 ½ furlongs and the $600,000 New York (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on the turf.
Oaklawn stakes winners Whitmore and Recruiting Ready are entered in the True North (probable post time of 3:42 p.m., Central). Whitmore and Recruiting Ready are 7-2 and 6-1, respectively, on the morning line.
Oaklawn-raced Vexatious is entered in the New York (probable post time of 4:15 p.m., Central). Vexatious is 15-1 on the morning line.
Chocolate Kisses, winner of the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 9 at Oaklawn, is entered in the $200,000 Wonder Again Stakes (G3) Thursday at Belmont Park. … Oaklawn-raced Crafty’s Dream, Q Go Girl and Taylor’s Spirit, are entered in the $65,000 Panthers Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Thursday at Prairie Meadows. … Two-time Oaklawn winner Captain Von Trapp is the 3-1 program favorite for the $65,000 Prairie Mile Stakes for 3-year-olds Friday at Prairie Meadows. Oaklawn maiden special weights winner Tut’s Revenge is the early 7-2 second choice. … Oaklawn maiden special weights winner Smart Emma is entered in the $125,000 Mint Julep Stakes (G3) Saturday at Churchill Downs. … Night Ops, runner-up in the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds May 4, was an allowance winner last Saturday at Churchill Downs. Night Ops, who broke his maiden March 30 at Oaklawn, is campaigned by trainer Brad Cox and owner Steve Landers, a prominent Arkansas automobile dealer and member of the Arkansas Racing Commission.