Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide, who just two weeks ago was beaten a head in the $500,000 MassCap (gr. II) at Suffolk Downs, has drawn the rail for Saturday's Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park. The Suburban is one of the highlights of the New York Racing Association's annual Fourth of July grab bag of stakes. Also on the card is the six-furlong Prioress Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies.
The Suburban, with a post time of 4:20 p.m. EDT, is the first leg of the NTRA's National Pick 4. Subsequent legs in the sequence are as follows: Firecracker Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) from Churchill Downs (4:50 p.m.), United Nations (gr. IT) from Monmouth Park (5:20 p.m.) and American Oaks (gr. IT) (5:45 p.m.).
Funny Cide (weighted at 117 pounds) won't have things easy in the 1 1/4-miles Suburban, offering a purse of $500,000. Highweight in the summer classic is Edmund Gann's Peace Rules at 120 pounds and Dynever rates a strong chance at 116 pounds. Peace Rules will seek to give trainer Bobby Frankel his first win in the Suburban since he saddled Barometer to victory in the 1970 running.
A son of Jules, Peace Rules was one the nation's top 3-year-olds last season. In all, he won three stakes races in 2003 - the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), Toyota Blue Grass and Haskell Invitational (both gr. I). He was valiant in defeat as well, finishing a stubborn third in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and second in the Travers (gr. I), the result of playing his part in some bruising pace duels. Though Peace Rules has yet to win as the Suburban distance, it is probably unfair to say 10 furlongs is beyond his range considering he ran so well in the Derby and Travers paces.
"He's tough and he's an overachiever," said jockey Jerry Bailey, a three-time winner of the Suburban. "He goes out there and gives you everything he has. I think he's a miler that's stretched to a mile and an eighth and, hopefully, he can stretch to a mile and a quarter."
This year, Peace Rules has won the New Orleans (gr. II) and Oaklawn (gr. I) Handicaps. The 4-year-old made the lead in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, but retreated early, losing to 62-1 shot Colonial Colony.
Colonial Colony will try to repeat that performance in the Suburban. The 6-year-old ran the race of his life to nail Southern Image at the wire in the Foster.
"I was completely shocked when they hung our number up in the Foster," trainer Walter Bindner said. "We took a shot because the owner and breeder (Chris Nolan) owns the mare and full sister to this horse. We were hoping for a top three finish. He's been a different horse this year. He's finally put it all together."
Dynever won his 4-year-old debut in the San Bernando (gr. III) at Santa Anita, faded as the favorite in the Pimlico Special (gr. I), then rebounded when a big second here to Seattle Fitz in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) three weeks ago.
"He came out of the Brooklyn in good shape; he has trained well and I'm very happy," trainer Christophe Clement said. "He stays a mile and a quarter and some of his opposition might not be as good at a mile and a quarter."
He only owns a pair of grade III victories from nine graded stakes attempts, but Dynever has, at times, given reason to believe he is one of the best horses in training. His best effort yet was a third-place finish behind Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
"At this level, you just try to do your best and, hopefully, you'll get your turn to win one of these races" Clement said. No rain is forecast on Saturday, but if the track comes up muddy, Clement said he would scratch in favor of next weekend's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).
Dynever, owned by Peter Karches, drew post 7 under jockey Corey Nakatani.
While Martin Schwartz's Bowman's Band is winless in his last seven races since taking the Meadowlands Breeders' Cup (gr. II) last fall, the Allen Jerkens-trained runner has been sharp lately finishing third in the Pimlico Special and a good second to Pico Central in the Met Mile (gr. I), beaten less than a length.
Newfoundland also rates a chance in the Suburban as does 2002 Belmont (gr. I) winner Sarava, who returns to this track for the first time since pulling off the stunning 70-1 upset two years ago.Suburban Handicap (gr. I), $500,000, 1 1/4 miles, 3-year-olds and up, Belmont Park, Saturday, July 3, approx. post time: 4:20 p.m. EDT
PP, Horse, Wgt., Jockey
1, Funny Cide, 117, Jose Santos
2, Newfoundland, 114, John Velazquez
3, Peace Rules, 120, Jerry Bailey
4, Sarava, 113, Javier Castellano
5, Devil Time, 113, Bill Troilo
6, Colonial Colony, 116, Rafael Bejarano
7, Dynever, 116, Corey Nakatani
8, Bowman's Band, 115, Jorge Chavez