Trainer Allen Jerkens collected his fourth Suburban, a race he first won in 1962. It was the first graded win for Political Force, who was coming off a sharp closing second in the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont May 28.
Taken in hand by Cornelio Velasquez, Political Force enjoyed a ground-saving trip in his first attempt at the 1 1/4-mile distance while stalking in fourth. The 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt advanced on the inside coming off the final turn, found room between rivals and closed gamely when roused by Velasquez. The gray kept to his task in the final furlong while drifting out, holding the pacesetter Fairbanks at bay. The final time was 2:00 2/5 on a fast track.
“He was getting late," Jerkens said. "He always lugs in, so I hope nothing’s wrong with him. At least he got his grade I. We’ll rest him up now.
Jerkens said Political Force would likely next try the $500,000 Woodward (gr. I) at Saratoga Sept. 1.
"That’s probably what we’ll do; give him a little rest now and point for that. The Whitney, I would think we would skip that. He’s never been a terrific Saratoga horse, but he’s never been this good anyway. If you want to think big, we’ll probably look for two more races and then the Breeders’ Cup. You’ve gotta think big.”
It was two lengths back to third-place finisher Malibu Moonshine. Corinthian, the 3-2 favorite in the field of six, raced up close for the opening mile before fading to last.
Fairbanks, ridden by Richard Miglioire, was hustled to the front and maintained a clear advantage while setting fractions of :24 1/5, :47 2/5, 1:10 3/5 and 1:34 4/5. After being passed by the winner, Fairbanks fought back stubbornly along the inside. Malibu Moonshine, last for the first mile under Channing Hill at odds of 52-1, rallied wide into the stretch and finished up well.
"At the quarter pole, I had a lot of horse," Velasquez said of the winner. "When I asked him for run, he passed (Fairbanks). He has a lot of ability.”
“The fractions were solid, which you would expect in a race like this," trainer Todd Pletcher said of the runner-up. "The track has been fast all day, but I thought he ran a big race. It looked like Political Force had him, but he never stopped trying.”
"We got comfortable on the lead, but they came after me early," Migliore added. "But it took the starch out of the horses that were nagging at him, then we would do a little more and they would have to fight to keep up. If they left us alone until the five-eighths pole, it might have been a different outcome."
Political Force, graded stakes placed in his last three starts, finally broke through for his first stakes victory and fourth overall in 15 starts. Saturday's $240,000 winning share increased Political Force's earnings to $517,232. Bred by Allen in Kentucky, Political Force is out of Glitter Woman, by Glitterman.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Political Force paid $12, $4.70 and $4.50. Fairbanks, last seen in a 6 3/4-length win in the Tokyo City Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita March 31, returned $3.50 and $4.50. Malibu Moonshine was $10.60 to show. It was a half-length to Evening Attire in fourth, followed distantly by Hesanoldsaint and Corinthian, impressive winner of the Metropolitan in his last start.
“He laid his life down last time (in the Met Mile), but today he just wasn’t up to it," jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "I can’t even exaggerate. He didn’t just slow down, his head came up in the air and said, ‘Not today, I’m just not up to it.’ I banged on him a couple of times, but it was like spanking on dead wood; it wasn’t there. It’s unfortunate, because I thought we stole the first quarter, then I just let him engage, but he wasn’t up to the task.”
Jerkens won his first Suburban when Beau Purple defeated Kelso in 1962. His other wins were in 1993 and 1994 with Devil His Due.