07/05/2012 2:09PM

Belmont Park: Suburban Handicap may set up perfectly for Hymn Book

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Tom Keyser
Hymn Book is one of three Grade 1 winners in the field for Saturday's Grade 2 Suburban Handicap.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Hymn Book may not be the horse most people are talking about going into Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, but those who back him at the windows could be singing his praises after the race.

One of three Grade 1 winners among the eight horses entered for the Suburban, Hymn Book, 6-1 on the morning line, comes into the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race having lost his last two starts.

Following his victory in the Grade 1 Donn at Gulfstream, Hymn Book finished fourth behind a loose-on-the-lead Alternation in the Oaklawn Handicap. In the Pimlico Special, Hymn Book finished fifth to Alternation, but was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths with a troubled trip.

“He didn’t get away that good, then he got bothered a couple of times before he got to the first turn, then he got way out of it,” said Shug McGaughey, who trains Hymn Book for Stuart Janney. “That dirt was hitting him, and that bothered him a little bit and made him get even farther out of it. He came running and got beat a length and three-quarters.”

Since returning to Belmont, Hymn Book “has really done well,” McGaughey said, using a half-mile move in 47.05 seconds Sunday as evidence.

Hymn Book has run some of his best races at Belmont, winning two overnight stakes and running second to Flat Out in last year’s Suburban.

Hymn Book will be ridden by Alan Garcia, who replaces the injured John Velazquez. Hymn Book should get some pace to run at, with Trickmeister and Endorsement in the field.

To Honor and Serve will likely go off the favorite in the Suburban. He was most impressive winning the Grade 3 Westchester in April before finishing third as the favorite in the Metropolitan Handicap, in which he broke from the rail and was hemmed in by Jackson Bend for a good part of the trip.

He breaks from the outside post in the eight-horse field under Jose Lezcano.

“He still didn’t run a terrible race, he didn’t disgrace himself,” said Bill Mott, who trains To Honor and Serve for Live Oak Plantation. “When he wanted to run, he couldn’t run, he had to wait a little bit. He still ran pretty fast. When you look at his speed figures, he’s actually coming off a good race, and I guess with the perfect trip he would have been more of a factor in the Met Mile.”

Mott said one reason he is running To Honor and Serve in the Suburban is he didn’t want to wait until the Grade 1 Whitney on Aug. 4 at Saratoga.

Trickmeister, a winner of 6 of 7 starts, and Stay Thirsty, last year’s Travers and Jim Dandy winner, prepped for the Suburban when they ran 1-2 in the Vanlandingham Stakes here May 17. Trickmeister, who had two starts under his belt, went gate to wire while in receipt of seven pounds from Stay Thirsty, who was making his first start of the year. Saturday, the two horses both carry 117 pounds.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Stay Thirsty, said he believes his horse has moved forward since that race.

“His last couple of breezes have been the kind of breezes we were seeing when he won the Jim Dandy and Travers last year,” said Pletcher, whose horse will break from post 2.

Pletcher also entered Caixa Eletronica, winner of the Grade 3 True North, but he is not definite to run.

Trickmeister will likely be the pacesetter under Ramon Dominguez. His trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., said he doesn’t think anyone will want to run with his horse in the early stages of the Suburban.

“If he breaks good, I’m under the impression everybody will let him do his thing and they’ll start setting up camp where they want to from there,” Dutrow said. “I’m sure he’ll just go out there and start setting the pace until someone passes him. He’ll run as far as he can as fast as he can.”

Mucho Macho Man won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap two starts back before finishing third as the favorite in the Alysheba at Churchill Downs.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be in from Southern California to ride Mucho Macho Man.

Buffum, an impressive eight-length allowance winner here on Memorial Day, steps back into graded company for Godolphin Stable and trainer Tom Albertrani. Rajiv Maragh rides.

Endorsement, who won the Grade 3 Texas Mile two starts back, was beaten only a length by Alternation in the Pimlico Special after setting the pace from his rail post position. He has the rail again Saturday under Martin Garcia.

The Suburban will go as race 9 on a 10-race program that includes the Grade 3 Victory Ride for 3-year-old filly sprinters featuring the undefeated Agave Kiss.