05/15/2012 3:32PM

Belmont: Stay Thirsty back for Vanlandingham Stakes

Stay Thirsty
Stay Thirsty, winner of the Travers, ran 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Fans hungering for the return of Stay Thirsty to the races will get their fill on Thursday when last year’s Travers winner makes his 4-year-old debut in the $90,000 Vanlandingham Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Vanlandingham, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the main track, also drew Trickmeister, who suffered his first loss in six career starts when he was sixth in the Grade 1 Donn at Gulfstream in February.

For Stay Thirsty, this will be his first start since he finished 11th in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. It was a disappointing end to a pretty solid 3-year-old season in which Stay Thirsty won the Travers, Jim Dandy, and Gotham and finished second in the Belmont Stakes.

This late start to the year is by design, according to trainer Todd Pletcher, who is targeting races such as the Suburban later this meet, the Whitney and Woodard at Saratoga, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup here in the fall for this son of Bernardini. The ultimate goal would be the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita if Stay Thirsty proves worthy.

Following last year’s Breeders’ Cup, Stay Thirsty spent a couple of months on Jim Crupi’s farm in Ocala, Fla., before joining trainer Todd Pletcher’s Palm Meadows stable in early March.

“I think he is where you would want him for his first start back,” said Pletcher, who trains Stay Thirsty for owner Mike Repole. “We have him fit enough without going over the top, hopefully. We’ve got bigger goals in mind down the road, so this is as good a place as any to get him started.”

Pletcher said Stay Thirsty hasn’t “gotten a whole lot bigger, but he looks really well. He’s gained a little weight put on some muscle.”

Javier Castellano rides Stay Thirsty from post 2.

Exactly one year before Stay Thirsty won the Travers, Trickmeister won the Pleasant Colony overnight stakes by 11 3/4 lengths at Saratoga, earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. He was away from the races more than a year before winning another overnight stakes at Gulfstream last December. That was his prep for the Donn, in which he set a contested pace before fading to sixth.

“I still cannot tell you why he didn’t show up in that race the right way,” trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. “I’m hoping it was the track – it had been raining and it was kind of heavy. That’s not what [Ramon] Dominguez said, but that was the first time he had been on the horse.”

Dutrow said that he had to give Trickmeister some additional time between races because he had cracked heels in his hind feet “which are 100 percent now.

“He’s a nice horse, he’s doing great,” Dutrow added. “We can’t wait to watch him run.”

Dominguez rides from post 5.

Joan’s Choice could give Trickmeister problems up front. A 5-year-old son of Alphabet Soup, he has 3 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts and does possess sufficient early speed.

Arthur’s Tale, runner-up in the 2011 Wood Memorial, Swag Daddy, and Sastre, complete the field.

The Vanlandingham will be run as the third race on a nine-race program that begins at 12:50 p.m.