Last Gunfighter looks to come out blazing in Suburban Handicap
By Jenny Kellner | 07/02/2014 03:59 PM ET
Multiple graded stakes winner Last Gunfighter goes in search of his third straight stakes victory on Saturday when he takes on a field of 10 in the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap, one of five graded stakes on the inaugural Stars & Stripes Festival card at Belmont Park.
A 5-year-old son of First Samurai, Last Gunfighter closed out his 2013 campaign with a solid win in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Gold Cup at the Suburban distance of 1 ¼ miles and returned this year to nose out Valid in the 1 1/8-mile Mountainview Handicap in May at Penn National, earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for both efforts.
“He’s coming into the race well,” said trainer Chad Brown, who also has entered the late-running New York-bred Zivo in the Suburban. “He’s training well, he was second in the race last year, and he’s running a mile and a quarter on dirt.”
The starting high weight at 120 pounds, including Javier Castellano, Last Gunfighter drew post position 5 and was listed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
Favored at 3-1 on the morning line is Romansh, most recently a game third to Palace Malice and Goldencents in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108, his third triple-digit Beyer in his past four starts. Winner of the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap last year and the Grade 3 Excelsior this year, Romansh will be returning to 1 ¼ miles for the first time since a fifth in the Grade 1 Travers.
Jose Ortiz rides Romansh, who is owned by Godolphin Stable, from post position 6.
Stretched out to 1 ½ miles last time out, Stuart Janney’s Norumbega posted a 10-1 upset of the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational on June 7, finishing a neck ahead of favored Micromanage and earning his first stakes win.
“We were pleased with his race in the Brooklyn and he seems to have done very well since then,” said Norumbega’s Hall of Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey. “I don’t know about turning back to a mile and a quarter, but he seems to be training pretty sharp right now. I think he’ll show up with a good effort.”
Norumbega, 6-1 on the morning line, will leave from post position 4 under Joel Rosario.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Micromanage has been no worse than third in six of his past seven starts, including a 4 ¼-length victory over Norumbega in the Grade 3 Skip Away in March at Gulfstream Park, in which he earned a career-best 103 Beyer. He then was third as the odds-on choice in the Drosselmeyer at the Suburban distance prior to his narrow loss in the Brooklyn.
“His last three starts were consistently good, with the Skip Away being the best,” said Pletcher of the 4-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro. “We felt based on his pedigree he would improve with age. He’s really found his rhythm and hopefully can continue the course.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride the Repole Stable color-bearer, 9-2 on the morning line, from the rail.
“He isn’t particularly fond of the inside, but with the configuration of the start [on the turn], getting the rail should be a favorable draw,” Pletcher added.
Making his New York debut will be Prayer for Relief, whose best efforts in five starts this year have been a second in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special and a third in the Louisiana Handicap. Most recently, the son of Jump Start was eighth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster.
“It’s a solid group of horses and I think he fits,” said Dale Romans, who trains Prayer for Relief for Zayat Stables. “Whoever wins will have to run one of his best races, and if Prayer for Relief does that, I think he’ll be very competitive.”
Corey Nakatani and Prayer for Relief, 15-1 on the morning line, will leave from post position 7
Rounding out the field are the Argentinian import Ever Rider, fourth in the Brooklyn; Stormin Monarcho, who comes in off a pair of allowance wins at Delaware Park; Vyjack, ninth in the Met Mile; Mylute, fourth in the Stephen Foster, and Moreno, 12th in the Met Mile.
The field for the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap: