Owner Patty Tipton makes no secret of the fact she sees Hog Creek Hustle as a key player in this weekend’s Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.
The four-year old faces a stern examination in the Met Mile with, amongst others, Code Of Honor and McKinzie featuring in the opposition.
Tipton insists that Hog Creek Hustle is going there for one reason and, asked what the expectations are, she confirmed: “To win”.
Hog Creek Hustle hasn’t tasted victory since last year’s Woody Stephens, also at Belmont Park, when he beat Nitrous in the seven-furlong run to take out the Grade 1 prize.
“We think he’ll run really well and with the right race, if it sets up right for him to come flying at the end, I think he can be right there,” said Tipton.
Hog Creek Hustle was runner-up last time out at Churchill Downs in a seven-furlong allowance race, having finished only eighth in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Spring at Oaklawn over six-furlongs in his previous run.
His connections are very keen to see what he can do over the mile trip.
“We kind of got tired of running second at six furlongs,” Tipton added. “We just decided that we were going to take the leap and go for it. We think he can go a mile and we wanted to give him his opportunity.”
The Vickie Foley-trained runner is amongst a field of eight likely contenders for the Met Mile on the dirt track at Belmont Park this weekend.
Code Of Honor, Chug McGaughey’s former Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, joins recent Triple Bend winner McKinzie for the Bob Baffert team and George Weaver’s Carter Handicap scorer Vekoma as a trio of last-time-out winners in the field.
Network Effect (Chad Brown), Warrior’s Charge (Brad Cox), Mr Freeze (Dale Roman) and Endorsed (William Mott) complete the line-up.
There’s an added carrot of knowing that victory at Belmont ensures a run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. The opposition is strong but Tipton isn’t running scared of the challenge.
“We think he’s worthy of the opportunity, and we want to give him a shot,” Tipton said.
“This race means a lot for everyone that’s in it, as far as down the road. Win and you’re in the Breeders’ Cup and your breeding rights are pretty much out there for discussion. We think he deserves the opportunity to try.”
Long-standing trainer Foley gained her breakthrough Group 1 success when Hog Creek Hustle rallied powerfully to prevail in the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont last year. She has amassed close to $12m in career earnings and would become the first female winning trainer of the Met Mile should Hog Street Hustle emerge victorious on Saturday.