Baffert’s National Treasure Romps in Metropolitan Handicap

National Treasure got the jump on his five rivals coming out of the gate and never looked back as he ran off to a powerhouse 6 ¼-length victory over Post Time in the $1 million Metropolitan Handicap (G1), the preeminent race on the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga undercard Saturday.

National Treasure. Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo

Undercard winners include: Crupi (Suburban); Icy Chocolat (Poker); Baby Yoda (True North)

Gunned at the start by jockey Flavien Prat, the 4-year-old colt was prompted through fractions of 23.52, 45.75 and 1:09.34 by Hoist the Gold to his outside, then shook clear of that one and opened up by five at the head of the lane, hitting the wire in 1:35.12 for his second Grade 1 win of the year.

“[What] we’ve learned about this horse that you have to let him run. That’s his weapon – his speed – and if you take it away from him, he won’t run well,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert of National Treasure, owned by a group headed by SF Racing. “That’s just him. Sometimes, you just have to go for broke.”

Winner of last year’s Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown, National Treasure had a heartbreaking close to his sophomore season, losing by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) to eventual Horse of the Year Cody’s Wish. With the Met Mile a “Win and You’re In” race for this year’s Dirt Mile at Del Mar, National Treasure earned an all-expenses-paid return trip to the race.

The bay son of Quality Road opened his 2024 campaign with a narrow victory over Senor Buscador in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), but was not a factor in his subsequent start in the Saudi Cup (G1), finishing fourth behind that one.

“In his last couple works, he tipped me off that, ‘Hey, I’m back,” said Baffert. “I’m proud of the horse. When he shows up, he’s super. I’m proud of him and my team.”

The victory was the third Grade 1 and fourth of National Treasure’s career, and the winner’s purse of $550,000 increased his earnings to $5,922,000. Overall, he is 4-2-2 from 13 starts.

Hoist the Gold was third, a neck behind Post Time, with Castle Chaos finishing fourth and White Abarrio, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and the second choice in the Met Mile finishing fifth. Blazing Sevens was last.

$1 million Manhattan Stakes (G1): Measured Time delivers

 After an aggressive start, Godolphin-owned Measured Time ($8.20) also delivered a strong finish to top stablemate Nations Pride by two lengths in the penultimate graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga undercard.

The win had to be satisfying for European-based trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick after a not-so-successful few days at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Coming into his first start in the United States, Measured Time won a pair of graded stakes in Dubai before finishing fourth in the Dubai Turf (G1) on March 30. The 4-year-old son of Frankel was much the best in the 1 3/16-mile Manhattan and improved to 8-6-1-0 and boosted his earnings over $1 million.

Winning time was 1:51.94.

Nations Pride was ridden by Frankie Dettori, with third in the field of eight.

$500,000 Jaipur Stakes (G1): Cogburn an easy winner

Cogburn. NYRA Photo.

Not many 5 ½-furlong races are run in under a minute, but that’s what happened in the $500,000 Jaipur Stakes (G1) as 2-1 favorite Cogburn rocketed his way to a track record and 3 ½-length win over Arzak.

The Jaipur is usually run at 6 furlongs at Belmont Park, but the distance was shortened due to the track configuration at Saratoga. No matter, the victory also earned the 5-year-old an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) in November at Del Mar.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Cogburn came into the Jaipur off a win in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on May 4. He improved to 14-8-2-0 and boosted his earnings over $1 million.

Th winning time of 59.80 seconds set a Saratoga track record.

Cogburn, ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. (who won the Suburban and the Woody Stephens earlier on the card), returned $6.30.

“I’ve had some of the fastest horses in the world, some of the fastest horses of all time, and he’s still the first one I’ve ever had run 5 ½ furlongs in under a minute,’’ Asmussen said. “Five and a half furlongs in under a minute. That’s not five-eighths five, that’s five-and-a-half. That’s basically a sixteenth of a mile faster than a fast horse.”

Added Ortiz: “So fast. I can’t believe it. He was a rocket ship [out of the gate]. After that, I just sit on him and relax. When it was the time to go, turning for home, I felt like he was loaded. I asked him to go, and he responded really well. I asked him and he gave me what he got, all the way to the wire.”

$500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G1): Book’em Danno Rocks

Taking advantage of blazing early fractions, Book’em Danno took over at the top of the stretch and had just enough left to fend off fast-closing favorite Prince of Monaco and win by a half-length.

Leaving from the No. 1 post, Book’em Danno saved ground behind Barksdale as he led the field of 11 3-year-olds through an opening quarter mile in 21.37 seconds and the half in 43.08. prompted on the turn by jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Book’em Danno responded eagerly, sweeping four-wide and barreling to the fore at the top of the stretch.

Book’em Danno. NYRA Photo.

The New Jersey-bred gelding looked home free with 200 yards to go, but 8-5 favorite Prince of Monaco, who was bumped at the start and dropped back to eighth, commenced a powerful late rally with Nutella Fella in tow, only to come up inches short at the wire.

“The one-hole is always a worry going seven -eighths,” said trainer Derek Ryan of Book’em Danno, who was coming off a 105-day layoff following his second-place finish in the Saudi Derby (G3). “But when you have Irad Ortiz you don’t have to worry.”

The second choice at 5-2, Book’em Danno ($7.70) as he extended his record to 7-5-2-0 boosted his bankroll to $835,625 for Atlantic Six Racing.

Winning time for 7 furlongs was 1:21.30 as he picked up his first Grade 1 win.

Prince of Monaco, looking to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a second straight victory in the race, was 1 ¼ lengths ahead of 20-1 shot Nutella Fella, a 54-1 winner of the Hopeful (G1) last summer at the Spa.


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