Last Gunfighter has won six in a row, including an easy 4 1/4-length coup of the May 17 Pimlico Special (gr. III) last time out. On July 6 the Chad Brown trainee will look to make it seven when he takes on a compact field in the $350,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
Alpha, Percussion, Flat Out, and Fast Falcon are the four who will challenge the 4-year-old son of First Samurai, who races for breeder John Gunther. Last Gunfighter has not been defeated since he broke his maiden last October, and his past four victories have come in grinding fashion in stakes including the Excelsior (gr. III), Evening Attire, and Raymond Earl—those three at Aqueduct Racetrack. He has never been out of the top three, with a 6-2-2 record from 10 starts. Jockey Javier Castellano rides from post 3 as part of a 118-pound impost.
Robert Preston's dual grade I winner Flat Out is the class of the field with earnings of more than $2.7 million, and carries high weight of 119 including jockey Junior Alvarado from post 4 in the 1 1/8-mile dirt contest. The 7-year old Flatter runner was a non-threatening third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Sahara Sky in the May 27 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) last time out, but prior to that won the April 27 Westchester Stakes (gr. III) in determined fashion for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He has hit the board in six of his past eight starts, and has four wins from five starts at Belmont.
Percussion and Fast Falcon exit respective second and third-place finishes in the June 7 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) going 1 1/2 miles behind distance specialist Calidoscopio. Percussion, trained by Todd Pletcher for Gary Barber, led gallantly over the sloppy sealed track until the final 70 yards of the Brooklyn, when he was caught by the closing winner to finish a length behind. The 5-year-old Bluegrass Cat gelding took the Albert The Great Stakes at Belmont May 12 but is in search of his first graded win.
Fast Falcon, a 4-year-old son of Awesome Again, also seeks his first graded win after finishing third in the Brooklyn and second by a nose in the Albert The Great. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito conditions for Richard Pell; Fast Falcon was third in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) last year and second in the Dwyer (gr. II) by a neck.
Alpha, who rounds out the field for Darley and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, has not won since his dead-heat in last year's Travers with Golden Ticket. The 4-year-old Bernardini runner was fifth last time out in the March 30 Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Etisalat (UAE-II). He races this time with blinkers off.
$350,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, approximate post time 4:45 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Alpha (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 118, K P McLaughlin, 5-1
2. Percussion (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher, 6-1
3. Last Gunfighter (KY), J. Castellano, 118, C C Brown, 2-1
4. Flat Out (FL), J. Alvarado, 119, W I Mott, even
5. Fast Falcon (KY), C.H. Velasquez, 115, N P Zito, 10-1