William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Mitole delivered a performance worthy of the hype when putting away the front runners and holding off the closers in a spirited rendition of the $1.2 million Metropolitan Mile Handicap (G1) on the Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard Saturday.
Some among the racing cognoscenti considered the Met Mile the highlight of a Belmont Stakes card that included not only the eponymous American classic but also seven other Grade 1 races. The Met Mile featured a stacked field that included four last-out scorers of graded stakes and six Grade 1 winners.
Mitole stood tallest among them all, however, putting away Coal Front early, spurting away from Promises Fulfilled at the top of the stretch and holding off the fast-charging McKinzie and Thunder Snow late.
“He’s obviously a very special horse to win a very special race of this magnitude,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Mitole for the Heiligbrodts. “When you look at who finished second and third, the quality of the race speaks for itself.”
Mitole has now won seven consecutive races with a 9 1/2-month layoff between capturing the Chick Lang Stakes on Preakness Stakes Day last year and his four-year-old debut this season at Oaklawn Park on March 2.
Asmussen credited the Heiligbrodts with the patience necessary to have Mitole poised for his 4-year-old season.
“Nobody trains as well as Steve,” Bill Heiligbrodt said. “Only Steve could train a horse like this. When they’re this fast they’re hard to train, but he got us here.”
The Heiligbrodts bought Mitole for $140,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April 2017 two-year-olds in training sale.
“Nobody wanted this horse, but we did,” Heiligbrodt said of the Eskendereya colt bred in Kentucky by Edward Cox Jr.
“The Heligbrodts have bought a lot of nice horses, but this might be their best,” Asmussen said.
McKinzie came rolling late from eighth to miss by three-quarters of a length after Mitole completed the mile in 1:32.75 on the fast main track under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. It was a neck back to Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow in third with Promises Fulfilled fourth.
“We were much the best,” jockey Mike Smith said of McKinzie. “I was blocked the whole way from the three-eighths with nowhere to run.”
Mitole has now won eight of 11 starts and has earned $1,642,910.
“He’s a really special horse,” Santana said. “He can come from off the pace, on the front end, and between horses.”