07/04/2012 3:55PM

Belmont Park: Smith to ride Mucho Macho Man in Suburban

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mucho Macho Man will be ridden by Mike Smith in Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – With Ramon Dominguez opting to ride Trickmeister, Mucho Macho Man will have Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith on his back when he returns to the races off a two-month layoff in Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.

Dominguez had ridden Mucho Macho Man in his last five starts – beginning with the 2011 Belmont Stakes – but has elected to ride Trickmeister for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. for whom he rides frequently.

Kathy Ritvo, trainer of Mucho Macho Man, said that she understood that Dominguez and his agent Steve Rushing made a “business decision” to ride Trickmeister, who has won 6 of 7 overall starts.

“We got the best rider that would fit him,” Ritvo said of Smith, who won the 1994 Suburban on Devil His Due and the 1996 Suburban on Wekiva Springs. “We think he’s a great rider. I think he’ll give the horse a lot of confidence, and the horse will give him a lot of confidence.”

Mucho Macho Man will break from post 7 in the Suburban, run as a one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race that will go as race 9 on a 10-race card.

The Suburban drew a strong eight-horse field, including Grade 1 winners To Honor and Serve – the probable favorite – 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty, and Donn Handicap winner and 2011 Suburban runner-up Hymn Book as well as graded winners Caixa Eletronica and Endorsement. Caixa Eletronica is an 18-time winner who took the Grade 2 True North on Belmont Stakes Day last time out.

Caixa Eletronica, who is coupled with Stay Thirsty, is not definite to run, said Todd Pletcher, who trains both horses for owner Mike Repole. Pletcher wanted to evaluate the field before deciding to run or scratch Caixa Eletronica.

Mucho Macho Man had a three-race winning streak snapped when he was third, beaten seven lengths by Successful Dan, in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 4.

Prior to that, Mucho Macho Man won three straight, including the Sunshine Millions Classic over Ron the Greek – who subsequently won the Santa Anita Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap – and the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

“He belongs in the race, I think he’s going to run a great race,” Ritvo said.

Mucho Macho Man is not the only horse in the field with a new rider. Hymn Book, second in the Suburban a year ago, will be ridden by Alan Garcia, who replaces the injured John Velazquez, the gelding’s regular rider. Garcia rode Hymn Book to a second-place finish behind To Honor and Serve in last year’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

To Honor and Serve comes off a third-place finish as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap last out. He had the rail that day, a position that trainer Bill Mott thought might have compromised his colt’s chances. Saturday, he will break from post 8 under Jose Lezcano.

Trickmeister and Stay Thirsty ran one-two in the Vanlandingham Stakes here in May. Trickmeister went gate to wire that day, but will likely face some pace pressure Saturday from either Endorsement, who drew the rail, or Buffum, who breaks from post 4.