Post Time Answers The Bell In The GI Met Mile

Post Time | Sarah Andrew

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — When Hillwood Stable's Post Time (Frosted) blossomed this year, trainer Brittany Russell began the normal process of testing him in tougher races. Each time, he proved to be up to the task, leading the Maryland-bred to the biggest challenge of his career in the 131st GI Metropolitan H. Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Post Time drew Post 3 in the field of six led by GI Breeders Cup Classic and GI Whitney S. winner White Abarrio (Race Day) and GI Pegasus World Cup and GI Preakness winner National Treasure (Quality Road). He is the 7-2 third choice on the morning line. The lineup includes Castle Chaos (Palace Malice), Blazing Sevens (Good Magic) and Hoist the Gold (Mineshaft).

Commonly called the Met Mile, the prestigious race has long been a showcase for champions and Hall of Fame-bound runners. It debuted as a 1 1/16 miles test at Morris Park in 1891 and was shortened to a mile in 1897. It is being run at Saratoga this year and next in the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival while Belmont Park is undergoing a massive makeover.

The $1 million Met Mile will start in the Wilson Chute, a straight which meets the main track in the first turn. With a 1 1/8 miles oval, Saratoga was unable to run races between seven and nine furlongs on dirt after the original Wilson Chute was closed following the 1972 season and the space used for parking. There was an experiment with one-mile races in 1992 that was deemed unfair to horses that drew inside. The New York Racing Association rebuilt the Wilson Chute prior to the 2022 season.

Post Time | Sarah Andrew

As Post Time climbed the competitive ladder–he is 8-1-1 in 10 starts–Russell and Hillwood Stable owner Ellen Charles began to consider the Met Mile for the 4-year-old's debut at the top level.

“We had it on our radar,” Russell said. “It's a short field, but it's a quality field, and what are you going to expect? It's a Grade I for a million dollars. It's the Met Mile. You're not going to get an easy spot, but there's a lot of good things for us, if you look at it.

“Our horse, now, he has some seasoning under him. He's had some really good runs. We've learned some things along the way. Look, there's good horses in there, but who says that those horses are going to run their best race that day? Those horses have done a lot of travelling and we're sitting here with a horse that I feel like we kind of brought into this race the way we wanted. So, we feel good about him and that gives us confidence.”

White Abarrio and National Treasure will be making their first starts since the GI Saudi Cup on Feb. 24. National Treasure ended up fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner, late-running Senor Buscador (Mineshaft). White Abarrio, the 6-5 favorite in the Met Mile,  checked in 10th, beaten 15 lengths. Blazing Sevens was away from racing for nine months before his winning return Apr. 20.

While White Abarrio and National Treasure were competing in the Middle East, Post Time was emerging as a capable late- running stakes runner for Russell, 34, the leading trainer in Maryland last year. After he won his first four career starts, she took him to Keeneland in October for the Perryville S. He was third by 1 1/4 lengths.

“That was the turning point for us to say, 'OK, we need to kind of dip our toes outside Maryland, for sure,'” Russell said. “I wouldn't say that I had him as good as I could going there, but we thought it was a good stepping stone. I think he showed up and he showed that he can run outside Maryland.

To start this year, Russell sent Post Time out for a 6 1/2-length victory in the Jennings S. Jan. 29 and a three-length success in the GIII General George S. Feb. 17.

“The Jennings was the state-bred race. It was his first time going a mile,” she said. “That wasn't the easiest group in Maryland-breds you've ever seen. There were some well-seasoned, good, old racehorses that he destroyed on that day. That was a performance for me where it's like 'yeah, it's at home, and it's against Maryland-breds, but the way he did it.' He followed that big race up three weeks later, which you don't like to do sometimes with these better horses, but I had to. My hands are kind of tied to run him back there, and he did it again. Those two races there, that's when we're like, 'Alright, cool.'  We're sitting here looking at the Carter and it just seemed like it was time to get him back on the road.”

Post Time won the GII Carter S. at Aqueduct Apr. 6 by a neck over Castle Chaos and finished second by three-quarters of a length in the GIII Westchester S. May 3.

Brittany Russell and Ellen Charles | Sarah Andrew

Charles, the granddaughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post, owner of General Foods, has raced as Hillwood Stable since 2004. Her family has been deeply involved in Maryland racing for many decades and her father was a longtime steward.

Charles purchased Post Time, a son of 2016 Met Mile winner Frosted, who holds the stakes records for fastest time, 1:32.73 and margin of victory, 14 1/4 lengths, for $85,000 as a yearling. Among the reasons she was attracted to the colt is that his second dam is named Merriweather. His name came from her family. Russell and Charles became acquainted when she trained the Hello Beautiful (Golden Lad), a very successful filly Charles had bred and Russell bought at auction.

Russell's husband, Sheldon, is the regular rider for Post Time and will be seeking his first Grade I victory against a seasoned crew.

“Against a group like this with the speed that these kinds of horses are going to show, for what he's faced, I expect Sheldon is going to have to use him a little bit away from there, put him in a little bit of a handier spot,” Russell said. “Going a mile you think, 'Oh, he's going to be able to break and settle.'  You don't really. He's going to have to use him a bit and get him traveling. And he's going to have to be calling on him sooner, too. It's definitely going to be a test to what this horse is made of.”

Russell has plenty of experience at Saratoga as an assistant and since opening her own stable in 2018 and said she appreciates competing in the Met Mile during the historic Belmont-at-Saratoga festival.

“To have a horse that I feel like has a legit shot to show up on a day like that, in a race like this, and especially at kind of a special year at Saratoga, it's pretty exciting.”

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