McKinzie Headlines Loaded Runhappy Met Mile

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McKinzie | Benoit

A talented and deep field of eight will line up for Saturday’s highly anticipated 127th renewal of the GI Runhappy Metropolitan H. at Belmont Park.

An unlucky second behind the mighty Mitole (Eskendereya) in last year’s contest, ‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie (Street Sense) figures to vie for favoritism. He was first or second in all seven of his starts in 2019, led by a win in Saratoga’s GI Whitney S. and a runner-up finish in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The four-time Grade I winner made up for a dismal performance in the inaugural $20-million Saudi Cup Feb. 29 with a good-looking victory in the seven-furlong GII Triple Bend S. at Santa Anita June 7. Hall of Famer Mike Smith makes the trip from Southern California to guide the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

“I think any time you win a Grade I on the East Coast it’s pretty important, especially at Belmont and Saratoga. It’s like hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium, it means something,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said.

“His comeback race was just perfect. If he brings his ‘A game,’ that’s what we’re looking for. He’s doing really well.”

Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}), winner of last year’s GI Runhappy Travers S. and GI Jockey Club Gold Cup S. over subsequent Classic hero Vino Rosso (Curlin) via disqualification, kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with a well-timed decision over Endorsed (Medaglia d’Oro) in the GIII Westchester S. in the Belmont mud June 6.

“He just grew up physically in his body and his mind,” Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He’s gotten more aggressive and he’s caught onto what it’s all about now. He was still figuring things out last year, especially earlier in the year. Everything he’s done this year has been good. He acts like he’s ready to run.”

Moved up to second via disqualification in the GI Kentucky Derby, Code of Honor is three for four at Belmont Park, including a track-and-trip score in last July’s GIII Dwyer S.

Vekoma (Candy Ride {Arg}), well-beaten in last year’s Kentucky Derby, has found his niche racing around one turn this term. A sharp winner of Gulfstream’s Sir Shackleton S. Mar. 28, the chestnut realized a career high while earning a gaudy 110 Beyer Speed Figure with a jaw-dropping victory over Network Effect (Mark Valeski) in a sloppy renewal of the GI Runhappy Carter H. in Elmont June 6. Both wins were at seven furlongs.

The Runhappy Met Mile offers a free berth to the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland.

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