Edmund Gann’s It's a Bird, winner of consecutive graded stakes and three of his last four overall, will try to continue his top form when facing nine rivals in the $400,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) July 4 at Belmont Park.
An evenly-matched group of older horses has lined up for the 1 1/4-mile Suburban, including Asiatic Boy, who missed by only a length last out in the June 13 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), and Rising Moon, third in this event last year. The Suburban is the last of three graded stakes on the Belmont card that also includes the Dwyer (gr. II) and Prioress Stakes (gr. I). Post time is set for 5:49 p.m. EDT.
It’s a Bird, a 6-year-old son of Birdonthewire—Faithful City, by Hooched, has been on top of his game ever since the second half of last season. The Marty Wolfson trainee won three straight races at Calder Race Course at one point during his 2008 campaign, including the 1 1/2-mile Plagiarize Stakes, which proves he is capable at the Suburban distance.
This year, It’s a Bird won the Jan. 24 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream, April 4 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), and last out scored by a head in the May 25 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III). It’s a Bird’s best running style is to sit right off the pace, and with the inclusion of the speedy Cool Coal Man and Finallymadeit in the Suburban, the race could set up well for the Florida-bred.
A winner of 11 of 30 starts for more than $1.4 million, It’s a Bird will be ridden by Javier Castellano for the first time. They will break from post 3.
Asiatic Boy was charging hard at the end of the Stephen Foster despite getting bumped at the top of the stretch and making his first start in the states. The 6-year-old Argentine-bred son of Not For Sale will carry top weight of 122 pounds based on his international success, which has included four group wins at Nad al Sheba in Dubai. Earlier this year he won the Invasor Al Maktoum Challenge-Round 3 (UAE-III) while being trained by Michael de Kock.
Now conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin, Asiatic Boy has earned more than $3 million from his 16 starts. He will be ridden once again by Alan Garcia.
“He ran great (in the Stephen Foster),” McLaughlin said. “He had a troubled trip and still ran second. Him and (third-place finisher) Einstein beat each other up a little bit trying for the same hole twice.
"Carrying high weight of 122 pounds wouldn’t please any trainer, but I understand, as he carried 122 last time."
Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Rising Moon won four consecutive starts upon entering the 2008 Suburban, where he was beaten 3 1/2 lengths in his graded stakes debut. The lightly-raced 6-year-old son of Runaway Groom ran fifth in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) to close out last year’s campaign, and has hit the board in both of his starts in 2009. Last out he was third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) on the sloppy Belmont strip. Jose Lezcano will ride for Rick Dutrow Jr.
Stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time is Barclay Tagg trainee Dry Martini, who looks for his first graded stakes win since taking the Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct last November. The Slew Gin Fizz gelding enters off a victory in the May 8 Three Coins Up Stakes at Belmont.
Cool Coal Man and Ready's Echo, both prominent on last year’s Triple Crown trail, are in with a chance. Cool Coal Man, winless in eight graded stakes tries since taking the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) last year, enters off an impressive wire-to-wire score in the Lord of the Night Stakes at Belmont. John Velazquez rides for Nick Zito.
Ready’s Echo, third to Da' Tara in the 2008 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), opened his 4-year-old campaign with an allowance win at Keeneland, but finished seventh in the May 25 Met Mile (gr. I).
“I thought he ran pretty well in the Met Mile,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “This will be his third start off the layoff, and I think a mile and a quarter should suit him. I am optimistic he will run well.”