Centennial Farm’s Unified is likely to skip the Grade 1, $ 1.2 million Metropolitan Handicap, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Sunday morning at Belmont Park, and will instead take aim at the Grade 2, $ 350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where he’s expected to face multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits for the second time this year.
Unified got the better of Mind Your Biscuits the first time around in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint in February. A 4-year-old colt by Candy Ride, Unified was making his first start in eight months, turning in a front-running effort to hold off Mind Your Biscuits to win by a neck.
Following the Gulfstream Sprint, Mind Your Biscuits had a productive jaunt overseas with his impressive three-length victory in the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 25 at Meydan Racecourse, while Unified auditioned for the June 10 Met Mile in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack, where he finished second by a neck behind the pacesetting Green Gratto.
“It was such a speed favoring day and that horse was awfully quick leaving there,” said Jerkens of the Carter. “He kind of outbroke us and he was inside of us, so to try to outrun him like that to get the lead would have been suicidal, so he did the next best thing. That horse is really tough when he’s allowed to get the lead by himself. He was tough to run down, we just couldn’t get to him.
“We were toying with the Met, but it seems like a lot to ask him to do,” he added. “We were really on the fence about running in it, and we didn’t want to be training for it and then not run. Then you have to freshen your horse up if you do that. So we decided to make the decision early if we were going to go for it or not, and we decided to do the July race and hopefully he runs big and he can run in the Forego at Saratoga.”
Mind Your Biscuits, meanwhile, has settled in at Belmont since returning from a freshening at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, KY following his trip back from Dubai, said trainer Chad Summers.
“He came back from his vacation at Taylor Made in great shape,” he said. “All systems are go for the Belmont Sprint Championship. The Met Mile was something we were looking at. We think he will get a mile, and we might look to show that later on, but for his first start back from Dubai, it makes sense to go for a seven-eighths race and give him more time.”
Summers said he’s content to patiently map out a spring campaign for Mind Your Biscuits, whose main summer goal is the Grade 1, $ 600,000 Forego on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course.
“He’s jogging right now and he’ll do that for a week and start galloping next Wednesday or Thursday,” he said. “He won’t breeze for a few more weeks. We’re not going to start on him too soon. He gets ready so quickly and I don’t want to be tempted to throw him in the Met Mile.
“He’s fresh right now,” Summers added. “As soon as the rider gets a leg up, he jumps around the shedrow and everything. He’s got a lot of quirks to him. We’ve had him for so long and everything, we know him inside and out, so we know when to push the buttons and when not to. He looks great and he’s ready to go on, but I’m just not ready for him to go on.”
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