Topping the field for the 1 1/8-mile race are Grade 1 winners To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty, who between them have won eight graded stakes and more than $2.8 million. Another eight graded stakes and $4.1 million in earnings is divvied up among the remaining six entrants, including 4-1 third choice Mucho Macho Man.
“He’s extremely good at a mile, but he’s classy enough to get 1 1/8 miles,” said Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who trains the Bernardini colt for Live Oak Plantation. “In the Met Mile, I think he was extremely compromised by his post position and – not to take anything away from the first two finishers – didn’t have the smoothest of trips.”
To Honor and Serve is the starting high weight under 120 pounds, including Jose Lezcano, and will leave from the outside, having drawn post position 8.
Stay Thirsty, who took last year’s Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga Race Course for owner Mike Repole, was runner-up to fellow Suburban entrant Trickmeister as the even-money favorite in his 2012 debut, the Vanlandingham overnight stakes on May 17. No worse than third in four lifetime starts at Belmont, the 4-year-old Bernardini colt tuned up for the Suburban on Sunday with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.05.
“With this being his second race off a layoff, we’re obviously looking for him to move forward,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “He’s been very sharp since the race, and we’re hoping this will set us on our way to a very, very productive summer.”
Javier Castellano will ride Stay Thirsty from post position 2, directly inside Repole Stable’s Caixa Eletronica. The entry was listed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
Winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in January at the Suburban distance, Mucho Macho Man will be seeking his third victory of 2012, having also taken the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in March and finishing third as the favorite in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 4.
With a new jockey, Hall of Famer Mike Smith, in the irons, Mucho Macho Man drew post position 7.
Hoping to earn his first graded stakes victory is Godolphin Stable’s Buffum, whose eight-length victory in a one-mile optional claimer on May 28 in his 4-year-old debut earned him a career-high 105 Beyer.
“His first race back was huge coming off the layoff,” said trainer Tom Albertrani of Buffum, who like Stay Thirsty and To Honor and Serve, is by Bernardini. “He’s trained very well since then, and we’re hoping he can run the same race back.”
A $1.2 million yearling purchase and a first-out maiden winner in October, 2010, Buffum next was fifth behind winner To Honor and Serve in the Grade 2 Remsen. He was immediately shipped to Dubai, where he was fifth in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas in his 2011 debut, and then returned to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct Racetrack in April.
Given time off, Buffum returned to take a seven-furlong allowance at Saratoga Race Course by 10 lengths and closed out his 3-year-old campaign with a two-length score in an optional claimer at Belmont.
“The horse really never had a chance to settle in one place; there was a lot going on early in his career,” said Albertrani. “He’s been here at Belmont now since the spring; we’ll see if he’s able to compete at this level on Saturday.”
Drawing post 4 at 8-1 on the morning line, Buffum will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh.
Completing the field are multiple graded-stakes winner Endorsement, who was a game third in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special last time out; Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book, fifth in the Pimlico Special, and Trickmeister, whose lone loss in seven starts came when he was sixth behind Hymn Book in the Donn, his only other graded stakes appearance.