ELMONT, N.Y. -- Silver Train's upset of Lost in the Fog in last October's Breeders' Cup Sprint wasn't even 10 days old when trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. was already thinking about the colt's primary objective for 2006.
"If he wins one race next year and it's the Met Mile, that would make everybody happy," Dutrow said last November.
Monday, Belmont Park will run the Metropolitan Handicap for the 113th time, and Dutrow is counting on Silver Train's uncanny affinity for this track to carry him to victory. Silver Train is 3 for 4 at Belmont, 1 for 9 everywhere else, including losses at Gulfstream and Aqueduct this year. His top three Beyer Speed Figures all came at Belmont.
Silver Train, along with 2005 Blue Grass winner Bandini, are the highweights at 119 pounds for the Met Mile, which drew a field of seven. Others entered are 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko, Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes winner Sun King, Forego winner Mass Media, Westchester winner Sir Greeley, and New York Hero, who broke a 16-race losing streak with an allowance win last out.
Silver Train, a son of Old Trieste, only ran in last fall's BC Sprint because it was at Belmont. On July 2, Silver Train won an entry-level allowance by 6 3/4 lengths here, running six furlongs in 1:07.67 and just missing the track record. In the fall, Silver Train won the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap here, a mile race in which he went gate to wire.
Dutrow said he has had lesser-caliber horses show an affinity for a particular track, but never a horse at this level.
"What I would have to say is the biggest thing is the way he pushes off that track," Dutrow said.
No horse in this field wants to be on the lead. Dutrow said Silver Train would gladly take it if it's there for the taking.
"The time he ran that mile race in the Jerome, I didn't expect to see him on the lead that day," Dutrow said. "He broke good, he set the pace, and drew off at the end. If he breaks good and he's there, we'll just [set] the pace no problem."
Bandini is 2 for 2 since returning from an ankle injury suffered when he finished 19th in the Kentucky Derby. He set a fast pace in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream and then went gate to wire under much softer fractions to win the Skip Away.
"He's a quality horse that's capable of doing a lot of things," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who seeks his first Met Mile win. "I'm not 100 percent sure what his absolute best trip is. He's tactical enough that a mile suits him, so I felt like this was a good spot. The timing is good; he runs well fresh."
Sun King, like Bandini, has been effective going both two turns and one. He is coming off a sharp victory in the seven-furlong Commonwealth at Keeneland, in which he rallied from last on a notoriously speed-favoring surface.
"People that have been going to Keeneland forever told me that's one of the great races of all time at Keeneland," said Nick Zito, the trainer of Sun King. "They don't remember a horse doing that."
Sir Greeley enters the Met off a strong victory in the Westchester Handicap, in which he ran one mile in 1:33.69. Sir Greeley has been a much more consistent horse this year than last.
"He used to run and lose a lot of weight," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "Who knows? He may be sounder. He's coming out of his races in a lot better shape than he was before."
Wilko is winless in 10 starts since upsetting the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star. He is coming off a third-place finish in the Dubai World Cup.