Offlee Wild took the lead rounding the far turn and then continued on gamely to win Saturday's $500,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park by 1 1/4 lengths over 26-1 longshot Tap Day.
Ridden by Edgar Prado, Offlee Wild was settled in fourth on the outside early while Record Buster jumped out to an early lead. Stalked by 3-1 favorite Pollard's Vision, Record Buster and Javier Castellano drew off to lead by six lengths while setting fractions of :23.92, :46.51, and 1:09.81. But the pacesetter was done after three-quarters of a mile and the rest of the field closed rounding the turn for home in the 1 1/4-mile main track test.
Offlee Wild led to the wire, while Tap Day closing late to finish second. Pollard's Vision held on for third as the winner finished in final time of 2:00.50. The track record for the distance 1:58 1/5. Sir Shackleton was fourth, followed by Evening Attire, Funny Cide, Runaway Russy, and Record Buster.
In posting his second win in his fourth start of the year, Offlee Wild paid $9.20, $4.80, and $3.60. Tap Day returned $18.80 and $7.40 as the top two combined for a $151.50 exacta. Pollard's Vision paid $2.80 as he rounded out the $458.50 trifecta.
Owned by AZ Azalea Stables, Offlee Wild was being saddled for the first time by trainer Juan Rodriguez, assistant to Richard Dutrow, who is serving a supension. A 5-year-old son of Wild Again bred in Kentucky by Dorothy Matz, Offlee Wild has won six of 18 starts and earned $968,825. Previous to the Suburban, Offlee Wild finished sixth as the favorite in the Pimlico Special (gr. I) victory of Eddington.
"He didn't run at all over the wet track at Pimlico," AZAzalea Stable's Lansdon Robbins said. "We did some tests and X-rays and we didn't find anything serious. We laid off him for seven or eight days and he came around."
Robbins credited trainer T.V. Smith, who selected Offlee Wild for the owners and trained him until he was replaced in mid-2004, for his efforts.
"I have to give T.V. Smith a lot of credit. He picked out a lot of my horses in 2001," Robbin said. "He just couldn't get this horse to the next level, and with multimillions of dollars invested in this game, I thought I had to make a move.
Even though he did not think Dutrow would approve of the suggestion, Robbins indicated he would like to point Offlee Wild toward the Aug. 13 Arlington Million (gr. IT) at 1 1/4 miles on turf. He said the Whitney (gr. I), at 1 1/18 miles over the main track at Saratoga, is also a possibility.
Jerry Bailey, who replaced Jose Santos aboard 2003 dual classic winner Funny Cide for the Suburban, offered no excuse. "He felt perfectly fine warming up, but I never had any horse once the gate opened," Bailey said.