Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s Silver State, expertly handled by Ricardo Santana, Jr. for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, extended his win streak to six with a powerful run up the rail to capture the Grade 1, $1 million Metropolitan Handicap, a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park on June 5.
The 128th renewal of the Met Mile was one of three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events on the Belmont Stakes Day card featuring nine graded stakes, including eight Grade 1s, capped by the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.
“I’m very proud of Silver State, the whole team, and the trip Ricardo gave him and the faith he has in the horse. The Met Mile is an extremely significant win and one of the great races in American racing,” said Asmussen. “This is six wins in a row for him. He’s an absolutely beautiful Stonestreet bred that Ron Winchell and Mr. Horton purchased and have campaigned. Their patience in allowing him to get to this level has been perfect.”
The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt launched his streak last fall in Kentucky with allowance wins at Keeneland and Churchill Downs and continued through a pair of listed stakes wins at Oaklawn Park before making the grade last out in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 17.
Out of the stakes-winning Empire Maker mare Supreme, Silver State, a $450,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, improved his record to 7-2-1 from 11 starts. His bankroll swelled to $1,765,094 with the $535,000 winner’s share.
Knicks Go, the reigning Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, led the six-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in :23.36 seconds on the fast main track as Mischevious Alex, who broke outward into Dr Post from his inside draw, straightened course before angling off the rail and in-between Silver State and Lexitonian to track from second.
The Joel Rosario-piloted Knicks Go reached the half-mile in :46.31 as Mischevious Alex continued to stalk with Silver State enjoying a comfortable ground-saving trip in third.
Knicks Go held a precarious lead late in the turn, drifting out at the quarter-pole as Mischevious Alex dialed up the pressure to the outside, leaving the rail open for Silver State, who took the opening and ran home a one-length winner in a final time of 1:35.45.
By My Standards, patiently piloted by Gabriel Saez, closed down the middle of the track to complete the exacta by three-quarters of a length over Mischevious Alex. Knicks Go, Dr Post and Lexitonian rounded out the order of finish.
Asmussen tipped his cap to the picture-perfect ride by Santana, Jr.
“Silver State’s one-turn races last year were brilliant. Ricardo knows the horse and has a great amount of confidence in him,” said Asmussen. “He was away cleanly and he was traveling very comfortably. Ricardo’s level of confidence in this horse, and it’s obviously warranted, had a lot to do with the outcome today.
“This horse takes a step forward with every race,” he added. “The one thing you really noticed at Oaklawn is every time he went to the wire like he was trying to win. He’s a Met Mile winner. We built it up to this point. To be in this position today will give him the credit he deserves. That’s the great part about racing. You have to earn it. That’s what he did today. The Met Mile was our target since last fall.”
The victory marked a third Met Mile win for the Asmussen and Santana, Jr. tandem after scores with Bee Jersey (2018) and Mitole (2019), who went on to earn honors as that year’s Champion Male Sprinter.
A humble Santana, Jr. gave all the credit to Silver State.
“He broke really sharp today and put me in a great spot. I was just a passenger today,” said Santana, Jr. “He put me where he wanted to be. The rail opened, so I decided to go through it and he gave me the victory.
“Steve’s done a good job with him,” he continued. “He gave him time off. He came back fresh last year and he’s the best that he’s been right now.”
Trainer Bret Calhoun said he was thrilled with the runner-up effort of multiple graded stakes winner By My Standards.
“I thought he ran an outstanding race. My big fear coming in here was the one-turn mile,” said Calhoun. “I didn’t know if he was going to be quick enough to run with some of the better milers in the country, and at one turn as well. But he showed up very well today and I was very proud of him. He finished with a head of steam and he just needed a little bit more ground.”
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Silver State earned a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar. He returned $13.40 for a $2 win ticket.