06/30/2011 2:42PM

Belmont Park: Convocation may be value play in Suburban

Tom Keyser
Convocation ran second in the 2010 Suburban.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Convocation has run some winning races in graded stakes competition, but to date has yet to win such an event. Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Suburban at Belmont Park will be his latest – and perhaps best – chance to win a prestigious race.

Second in this race last year, Convocation may offer a little bit of value in a seemingly even-matched field in Saturday’s 125th renewal of the Suburban. All six horses entered in the Suburban were assigned 115 pounds by racing secretary P.J. Campo. Of the six entered in the 1 1/8-mile race, only two have won a graded event. But with graded winners Rodman and Colizeo coming off their best lifetime performances speed-figure-wise, this might be Convocation’s time to shine.

“He’ll have to run the race of his life to win it, no doubt about it,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “He’s been training very good.”

The Suburban is one of three stakes on an 11-race card that begins at 1 p.m. and includes the Grade 2 Dwyer for 3-year-olds and the $60,000 Recording Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

Convocation, a 5-year-old son of Pulpit, is 0 for 7 in graded stakes, but has twice finished second in the Grade 3 Westchester and was also runner-up the Grade 2 Dwyer in 2009 and last year’s Grade 2 Suburban. In his most recent start, Convocation finished third in the four-horse Easy Goer Stakes, but that race – won by Friend or Foe – was run in a near-track-record time of 1:40:13.

“He finished up some, but he wasn’t catching up to them,” Jerkens said. “It looked like the track was speed-favoring that day.”

Convocation, owned the Centennial Farms, shows a bullet half-mile breeze in 47 seconds on Tuesday, and he gets the services of Ramon Dominguez.

Rodman will likely go off the favorite in the Suburban off a strong second-place finish to Tizway in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap here on May 30. Rodman came from well off the pace that day, but has also had success on the front end, a style he used to win the Grade 3 Queens County in 2009 and the Irish Tower Stakes at Aqueduct in April.

Trainer Mike Hushion said the fractions in the Met were hot enough that he was glad Rodman was off of the pace. There does not appear to be as much early speed in the Suburban, and Rodman drew the rail under Javier Castellano.

“I’m going to let him place himself,” Hushion said. “If he happens to be revved up and on it a little bit he is, if not we’ll late Javier play that hand.”

Rodman earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 108 in the Met Mile, and Hushion knows that a regression, or bounce, is possible. The 6-year-old horse, however, put in one of his best workouts Sunday when he drilled five furlongs in a bullet 59 seconds.

“I’m hoping that’s a little message that he’s really on his game,” Hushion said.

If Rodman isn’t on the lead, then Colizeo figures to be. Colizeo ran a race that was too good to lose when he was beaten a neck by Apart in the Grade 3 William Donald Schaefer at Pimlico. In his lone performance at Belmont, Colizeo won an overnight stakes going 1 1/16 miles here last October from just off the pace.

“He’s a sharp horse from the gate and puts himself into the race, but you can certainly make adjustments if the pace is too quick,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “He’s coming into the race in great shape.”

Hymn Book comes off a solid victory in the off-the-turf Three Coins Up Stakes here on May 19, beating I Want Revenge by a 1 1/4 lengths. He is unproven on a dry fast track, however. Icabad Crane, a multiple New York-bred stakes winner and Flat Out, sixth in the Stephen Foster Handicap two weeks ago, complete the field.