The Belmont Stakes did not have any Southern California horses racing in the final leg of the Triple Crown, but the undercard was well populated with horses that usually call Santa Anita their home.
The Belmont Stakes card is considered the best day of racing outside of the Breeders’ Cup. There were 10 stakes races, eight of them Grade 1s.
Some were calling the Metropolitan Mile a better race than the Belmont Stakes, and it delivered with an unbeatable performance by Mitole, who won his seventh in a row Saturday. There was also a rally by McKinzie, who had trouble finding room during parts of the race.
McKinzie broke a little slowly and was next to last for most of the first half-mile and then found himself behind horses entering the stretch. Meanwhile, Mitole had poked his head in front with a quarter-mile to go and never surrendered the lead, winning by three-quarters of a length.
Once McKinzie and jockey Mike Smith were able to find a spot, they rushed through, but the race was almost over and they beat Thunder Snow by a neck for second place.
Mitole paid $9.00, $4.40 and $3.50 in the race for 3-year-olds and up.
“He ran a winning race. He just didn’t get the right trip,” trainer Bob Baffert said about McKinzie from Arcadia. “It’s very disappointing, but that’s horse racing.”
Jim Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant who was in New York, agreed on the trip.
“We had a little traffic trouble, and if he could have gone right instead of left, that would have been the way to go,” Barnes said. “It’s up to Mike to make the right decisions. The horse showed up and ran well.”
Smith called it “a very unlikely trip.”
Pavel, running for trainer Doug O’Neill and owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, finished sixth.
In other selected races:
Grade 1 $700,000 Ogden Phipps: Midnight Bisou, ridden by Smith, rolled to an easy 3½-length win in the race for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles.
“She just seems to be getting better with age, and she just loves it here at Belmont,” Smith said. I don’t know what it is, but Big Sandy seems to bring out the best in her.” She is two for two at Belmont Park.
Mopotism, the longest shot at 21-1 in the five-horse field, finished third for O’Neill and the Reddams. Midnight Bisou paid $5.40, $2.69 and $2.10.
Grade 1 $400,000 Jaipur Invitational: World OfTrouble went gate to wire in the six-furlong race for trainer Jason Servis. Peter Miller had two entrants in the seven-horse field. Om, with Joel Rosario in the saddle, was second, and Belvoir Bay, with Flavien Prat, finished fourth. World Of Trouble, the prohibitive favorite, paid $2.80, $2.60 and $2.10.
“I thought both horses ran very well,” Miller said. “No one went with the winner, and the turf is very fast and speed favoring. All things considered, I was pleased with both horses.”
Grade 1 $700,000 Acorn Stakes: Despite a blistering fast pace, Guarana had more than enough left to win the one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies by a widening six lengths for trainer Chad Brown. She paid $5.80, $3.50 and $3.30.
Ce Ce, for Michael McCarthy and Victor Espinoza, finished fourth, while Proud Emma, whose connections were Miller and Prat, finished sixth in the nine-horse field.
Grade 1 $400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes: Here are the odds of the top four finishers: 19-1, 17-1, 15-1 and 32-1. Hog Creek Hustle won the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds. Trained by Vickie Foley and ridden by Corey Lanerie, he paid $39.80, $15.20 and $8.10 in his neck win over Nitrous.
Much Better, for Baffert and Smith, was seventh, and Landeskog, for O’Neill and Tyler Gaffalione, finished ninth in the 11-horse field.