“I Love New York” may be the tried and true definitive marketing tag line, and it certainly applied to the sentiment expressed around Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn on the morning after Bee Jersey’s smashing victory in the 125th running of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap in gate-to-wire fashion.
Within the last 12 months, Asmussen won six Grade 1s with Gun Runner, including the Whitney at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Saturday added the Met Mile with Charles Fipke’s Bee Jersey, a 4-year-old colt by Jersey Town.
Asmussen may have trained three different Horses of the Year – Curlin (2007-08), Rachel Alexandra (2009), and Gun Runner (2017) – but the multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer has plenty of accolades for Bee Jersey, now the victor in four consecutive races and a first-time Grade 1 winner.
“I’m very proud of him. He ran an amazing race,” he said. “I’m very proud to win the Met Mile. It’s a very significant race and this is the first time that we’ve won it. It’s definitely a very important race on the American calendar, and it’s awfully nice to win it with a homebred for Mr. Fipke by a Grade 1 winner and sire of his. This is definitely a sire-making race. You look at the previous winners of the Met Mile and it’s nice company to be in.”
Not only did Bee Jersey add to the Grade 1 trophies in the Hall of Fame trainer’s overflowing case, he traveled the one-turn mile in the eye-popping time of 1:33.13. Consider that the stakes record is 1:32.73 and the track record is 1:32.24.
“Without being positive, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a horse run a mile any faster than he did. I’ve been trying to think if I had, and I don’t think so. It’s not like we did any research on it. We just went by memory and I think I would remember if one of my horses had,” said Asmussen.
The Met Mile is a “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in early November, and that remains the long-range goal for Bee Jersey, said Asmussen. But how he will bring the horse from this race to the Dirt Mile is still a game plan yet to be devised.
“I think that the race being run at Churchill this year and being a one-tun mile, that’s a completely different dynamic than in years past,” he said. “Obviously, he went from three races in a row that were two-turn races to this one-turn mile. Whether it was the pace or other scenarios that worked out perfectly yesterday, does that happen in the future?”
Asmussen, who shipped the horse back to his Churchill Downs base Sunday morning, said he’ll look at the seven-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Forego on August 25 at Saratoga, among others. He noted that Bee Jersey’s energy level and how he trains going forward will be among the deciding factors.
The Asmussen-trained and Winchell Thoroughbreds-owned Tenfold, who finished fifth in the Belmont Stakes Saturday, also was in great physical shape on Sunday morning and is still held in high regard.
“He is a lovely horse and a beautiful physical specimen. He was beaten in a great race by a great horse and we’ll regroup,” said Asmussen, who won his 8,000th career race in May. “There are a lot of races left for him.”
Another Hall of Fame trainer who was looking ahead, and specifically to the Saratoga season, for his Belmont starter was D. Wayne Lukas, who trains sixth-place finisher and Calumet Farm homebred Bravazo.
“The horse is fine. He’s doing well this morning,” said Lukas, whose 5:30 a.m. departure time for the 15-hour van ride with Bravazo back to his Churchill Downs stable was delayed more than two hours by a mechanical problem. “This chapter came to a close and this fall, it will be something different. There are lots of races ahead and lots of dances left. We’ll be back. We’ll be at Saratoga all meet and this horse will be up there.”
Lukas, who turns 83 in September, remains pleased with Bravazo and had nothing but praise for the undefeated Justify, the 13th Triple Crown champion.
“We just got beat by a very good horse yesterday. The best horse won and he demonstrated he is the best all spring. I am happy for Bob [Baffert]. When the best horse wins like that it’s fine. It’s part of the game,” said Lukas, a three-time Belmont winner with Corporate Report (1991), Thunder Gulch (1995), and Will Take Charge (2013). “We all enjoyed it.”
* * *
Trainer Graham Motion was more than happy to discuss pulling a huge upset in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan for the second year in row on Saturday, a little more than an hour before Justify became the 13th Triple Crown champion.
“He seemed great this morning, very perky after a job well done,’’ said Motion, who left New York in great spirits Sunday morning on his way back to his base at Fair Hill in Maryland. “It was just a great race.”
Spring Quality put a neck in front of Sadler’s Joy in the final strides of the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan to capture one of the top turf races of the year at odds of 18-1. Last year, he won with Ascend at odds of 27-1.
The race was so close, Motion said he jumped up at the finish in celebration, but second-guessed himself momentarily. Hi Happy was another neck back in third, and Manitoulin just another neck back in fourth.
“One of the most rewarding parts of it was it’s not often you set a plan for a horse and it works out,’’ said Motion, adding that Spring Quality remains at the trainer’s Belmont Park barn. “We set a plan for this horse last fall at Aqueduct and pointed to this race as a goal. To be able to execute it … it’s not very often that happens.”
And to have Hall of Fame rider and friend Edgar Prado guide Spring Quality to a dramatic run to the wire made it even more satisfying.
“It’s a big thrill to win this race with Edgar,’’ said Graham. “We have a relationship that goes back to Laurel, and winning with him is very special to me.”
Runner-up Sadler’s Joy also came out of the race in fine order, and trainer Tom Albertrani said the next start could be the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga Race Course on July 28.
“It’s tough when you get beat a head, but I’m delighted the horse ran well,’’ said Albertrani. “He’s so consistent. We’re happy with the horse and we’ll just move on to the next race.”
* * *
New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits in good order following Met Mile
Trainer Chad Summers reported that Mind Your Biscuits, runner up in Saturday’s Grade 1 Met Mile, was doing super physically following his nose defeat to the front-running Bee Jersey in the one-mile race. The strong-closing son of Posse once again applied his late kick, but fell short at the wire in an effort to catch the winner, who led from start to finish en route to his fourth-straight victory.
Making his first start since winning his second Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in Dubai, Mind Your Biscuits was a victim of the pace, Summers said.
“I saw that [Bee Jersey] still had something left in the tank,” said Summers. “When you see the first quarter in 23 [seconds] you get a little bit concerned. I thought Joel [Rosario] rode [Mind Your Biscuits] perfect. We came up with a couple of game plans, and once the pace was developing as it was he had to be a little bit closer, and when he’s closer he closes, but he doesn’t have that same dynamite kick like he showed in Dubai. I’m proud of him. He shows up every time, and I think he stopped some of his critics.
“When the nominations came out, and you had an idea of who was going to the race, it looked like Bee Jersey, on paper, had the chance to be lone speed. It looked like Bee Jersey was the horse to beat. He had the 10 hole, we had the 1 hole, and we gave him four pounds. I know one thing, I tip my cap to him, but I wouldn’t mind running against him again.”
Mind Your Biscuits – who also owns victories in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, Grade 1 Malibu and Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship through 22 lifetime starts and is the all-time leading New York-bred in purses won with $3.9 million – proved a lot in yesterday’s race, and Summers has plenty to think about in the upcoming days.
“He hasn’t come out of a race this good since the  Gallant Bob, and that’s when we said, ‘All right, we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup,’” said Summers. “I think in the immediate here and now, you nominate to the Belmont Sprint Championship [Grade 2 on July 7 at Belmont] because it’s logically the next one up, but also to look at stretching him out, possibly going in to the Whitney [Grade 1 on August 4 at Saratoga] or the Woodward [Grade 1 on September 1], but that all depends.
"I think he can stretch out,” he added. “I don’t see any reason why a mile has to be his max. He was closing on this horse, maybe this is as far as he wants, but he’s as honest as they come. I’m hoping as the year continues out he can leave no doubt that he’s the best New York-bred of all time. It was a big weekend for New York-breds.”
* * *
Disco Partner gives Clement, Generazio three straight wins in G2 Jaipur
Trainer Christophe Clement and owner Patricia Generazio have plenty to be happy about following a successful Belmont Stakes Day in which they teamed to send out the first- and third-place finishers in the Grade 2, $400,000 Jaipur Invitational.
The Generazio homebreds proved to be a potent one-two punch in the Jaipur, with the speedy Pure Sensation jetting out to an early lead in the six-furlong turf dash as the late-running Disco Partner settled off the pace.
The New York-bred Disco Partner, who had already demonstrated a deep affinity for the Belmont turf course via a record-setting performance in last year's Jaipur, rolled home a one-length winner, with his stablemate finishing just a head behind runner-up Conquest Tsunami.
“You have to give credit to the Generazios for their breeding program,” said Clement. “The two horses ran great. Pure Sensation was on the lead and just got a little tired; he didn't get beat by much in third. Disco Partner was in a great stalking position, saved ground, and he has that great turn of foot which is always dangerous in these kinds of races. Over the past three years, Pure Sensation won [the Jaipur] once and Disco Partner won it twice, so the Generazios have won it three times in the last three years, which is great.”
The plan now, according to Clement, will likely be to point the two gifted grass horses to the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint on November 3 at Churchill Downs.
“Now you have to work backwards a little bit,” said the trainer. “Do you try to run them in the Breeders' Cup, and if so, how do you get there? The Belmont Turf Sprint [Championship] could be the [Breeders' Cup] prep. I'm sure we'll run once or twice in between then. It's fun to win these kind of races and get to plan for the future.”
Clement added that Disco Partner may look to defend his title in the one-mile, $150,000 Forbidden Apple on July 14 at Belmont, though a repeat appearance in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga Race Course is unlikely.
The native Frenchman also sent out Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Lull to a third-place finish in the Grade 1, $700,000 Just a Game. The 4-year-old filly led nearly ever step of the way in the Just a Game, but couldn't hold off A Raving Beauty and Proctor's Ledge in the final sixteenth of the one-mile turf event.
“I thought she ran great, she's a top class filly,” said Clement. “A mile is really the limit for her and she got beat a length and a quarter. She was on the lead, traveling very well – easily – through very fast times. She was third best yesterday, that's it. She's Grade 1 placed, which is always a good thing, and she's very well bred so it's a big deal.”
No plans are set for the daughter of War Front, but as Clement believes her best distance lies in the six- to seven-furlong range, a turn back in distance is likely forthcoming, he said.
NYRA Press Office