Jeanne Vance's Lemon Drop Kid confirmed his status as one of the leaders of the handicap division and surpassed the $2-million mark in career earnings with a 2 1/2-length win over Behrens in the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) Tuesday at Belmont Park. The 4-year-old son of Kingmambo stalked the early pace set by Wild Imagination before drawing off with a 1/4 mile to run under jockey Edgar Prado. He completed the 1 1/4 miles over a fast track in a quick 1:58.97, within a second of the track record of 1:58.33 held by In Excess.
Behrens finished second, 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Lager. J.R. Holmes was fourth, followed by Wild Imagination and Almutawakel.
"We broke sharp and we were galloping easy off the pace," said Prado. "I knew I had Behrens pinned on the inside of me, and at the top of the stretch, I wanted to get the jump on him. My horse just took off and I knew Behrens was chasing me."
Lemon Drop Kid and Behrens will likely face each other again at Saratoga in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), which earlier in the week trainer H. James Bond said was Behrens' primary short term goal.
Jorge Chavez, Behrens' jockey, said Behrens tired in the race. "Behrens hasn't run in a while and it was a good effort, but he was tired when I pulled him up," said Chavez.
Lemon Drop Kid remains undefeated in blinkers. He wore them for the first time in his 7 1/4-length rout of the Brooklyn Handicap field over this track in June. The Flint (Scotty) Schulhofer trainee swept the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Travers Stakes (gr. I) last year, before finishing his sophomore season with off-the-board placings against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). He earned $300,000 for the win, his ninth in 20 career starts. He was bred in Kentucky by William Farish and William Kilroy.
Lemon Drop Kid returned $3.60, $2.10, and $2.10 and led an exacta worth $6.40. Behrens paid $2.20 and $2.10, and Lager returned $2.10 to show.
"It is coming to the close of Lemon Drop Kid's career, and each race is special because time is running out," said Vance. "I think Scotty truly believes this is the best horse he's ever trained. He loves the horse as do we all." (Chart, Equibase