In the immortal words of thoroughbred owner Charles Howard from the movie Seabiscuit: “You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause he’s banged up a little bit.”
The quote was in reference to Seabiscuit’s jockey Red Pollard, who was blind in one eye. However, it also applies to horses. The one-eyed Todd Pletcher-trained horse Patch became one of the most popular and beloved colts on the Kentucky Derby Trail last year due to his handicap. The sentimental favorite finished a disappointing 14th in the 2017 Run for the Roses.
However, he bounced back nicely in the Belmont Stakes, hitting the board with a third-place finish. Then, in his next race (the last of his 3-year-old campaign), he finished a respectable fourth in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby.
In a sport that is devoid of stars in the older horse division, Patch is back — and better than ever this year. The sport really needs him, the loveable underdog, to recapture the imagination of race fans in this older division.
Patch started off his 4-year-old campaign on May 12 by winning an allowance race at Belmont Park (shown below) while producing a career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 109 — a surprising effort after a nine-month layoff since his last start.
His jockey John Velazquez said in a post-race interview: “If every horse had his heart, it’d be a lot easier. He tries hard. He gives you every bit he can. If you ask him, he keeps finding more and more and more. He’s got the same attitude as last year and when he runs, he tries his best, that’s for sure.”
Although he was bred for distance, Patch was recently nominated to run on Belmont Stakes Day in the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap, aka “The Met Mile”, which was first contested in 1891.
For those who may not be aware, the son of Union Rags was named Patch before he lost his right eye. As a 2-year-old, he developed an ulcer that initially responded to treatment, but went sour to the point that the eye had to be removed. Despite his slight handicap, he responded so well that his connections decided to continue pursuing his racing career. And, by all accounts, he’s a good-natured horse with a somewhat mischievous personality.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is no stranger to one-eyed horses. He trained Pollard’s Vision, who was blind in one-eye and named after — guess who? — Red Pollard, Seabiscuit’s blind-in-one-eye jockey.
In 2004, Pollard’s Vision won the Grade 2 Illinois Derby, finished third in the Louisiana Derby and 17th in the Kentucky Derby. Pollard’s Vision went on to finish second in the Ohio Derby, second in the West Virginia Derby and second in Penn Derby. He also won three other Grade 3 races: the Leonard Richard’s Stakes at Delaware Park, the Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park and the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne.
So, What Are Patch’s Chances in the Met Mile?
This year’s Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is going to be fantastic just seeing Justify attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown Champion. But looking over the nominations for this year’s Metropolitan Handicap, it is going to be a captivating undercard race. The 2018 Met Mile nominations that are expected entries include Patch, Bolt d’Oro and Mind Your Biscuits (2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint Champions).
Stay tuned! US Racing will preview this race once the entries and post positions are finalized.