To no one's surprise, Orb's loss in the Preakness was only a rare setback in jockey Joel Rosario's glorious spring. The Dominican demon was his usual brilliant self Monday, rallying Sahara Sky from last of nine to win the Grade I, $750,000 Met Mile by a nose in the final jump.
In real time, it appeared as if front-running Cross Traffic, on the rail, had held off Sahara Sky's late surge down the middle of the track. Two slow-motion replays didn't change that misperception, and only the black-and- white print showing Sahara Sky's nose in front by inches convinced the Belmont Park crowd.
"I thought I won,'' Rosario said, "but it was so close and I was so far to the outside, sometimes it's hard to tell. I thought we had a head in front, but the angle was different and I wasn't sure. He's a horse who wants to make a late run. We were far back, but he gave it to me."
Cross Traffic ran brilliantly in defeat, bursting through a quarter-mile in 22.40 seconds and a half-mile in 44.88 under pressure from Handsome Mike. Rosie Napravnik moved Mark Valeski four-wide on the turn, and he briefly drew even in upper stretch before Cross Traffic accelerated away. He and John Velazquez looked home free until Sahara Sky dealt them a brutal beat.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer shipped Sahara Sky from Southern California and mapped out a strategy for Rosario. "I told him to watch the pace," Hollendorfer said. "There was some speed to set that up, and I told him the horse likes lefthanded whipping, so to hit with both hands, and he came running."
Favored Flat Out, who was 4-for-4 at Belmont, ran third after a troubled trip. Mark Valeski settled for fourth.
Sahara Sky paid $11.60 for his seventh win in 16 starts. He was timed in 1:34.17 in the 121st Met, among the country's most prestigious races. On March 30, Rosario took the world's richest race, the $10-million Dubai World Cup, on Animal Kingdom. He set a record at Keeneland's spring meet with 38 wins eight days before his Kentucky Derby triumph on Orb.
Asked about his remarkable run, Rosario said: "I kind of like that. That's good.''
Notes & quotes:Owner Mike Repole said Micromanage won't run in the June 8 Belmont Stakes . . . Trainer Chad Brown said he was "90 percent'' sure Peter Pan runner-up Saint Vigeur (hoof problem) would skip the Belmont . . . Discreet Marq ($7.80) won the Grade II Sands Point on turf for trainer Christophe Clement . . . The 6-year-old mare Tiz Miz Sue ($10.80) took the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap for Joe Rocco Jr. and trainer Steve Hobby. Even-money Joyful Victory ran fifth . . . Midnight Lucky ($4.20) bounced back from a fifth-place flop in the Kentucky Oaks to win the Grade I Acorn Stakes for Napravnik and trainer Bob Baffert.