06/28/2007 12:00AM

Corinthian favored in Suburban

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Corinthian has gone from hunter to hunted in Saturday's $400,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont. If the temperamental 4-year-old colt can win the Grade 1 fixture, he will put himself in the hunt for divisional honors in the older male division.

Based on victories in this year's Donn Handicap and Dubai World Cup, the defending Horse of the Year, Invasor, has to be considered the leader of the division. But he suffered a career-ending ankle injury last weekend working for the Suburban, opening the door to be overtaken.

Corinthian, who likely would have been second choice behind Invasor in the Suburban, now figures a solid favorite against the likes of Fairbanks, Hesanoldsalt, Political Force, Malibu Moonshine, and Evening Attire. As the 119-pound highweight, Corinthian will give two to five pounds to the rest of the field.

The Suburban tops a 10-race card that also includes the Grade 1 Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies. The Suburban will be shown on delayed tape on ESPN2 in a one-hour broadcast beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern that includes live coverage of the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Corinthian, a son of Pulpit trained by Jimmy Jerkens, is coming off a solid victory in last month's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at one mile. A victory in the Suburban, being run for the 121st time, would make him the first horse to win these two historic races in the same year since In Excess in 1991. Fourteen others have done it, including Hall of Famers Buckpasser, Devil Diver, Equipoise, Grey Lag, Kelso, and Tom Fool.

Stretching out from a mile to 1 1/4 miles shouldn't be a big deal for Corinthian, because he has run six races at 1 1/8 miles or farther and won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap at 1 3/16 miles by a head over Hesanoldsalt.

"I thought he handled the mile and three-sixteenths pretty good," Jerkens said.

Corinthian will likely employ different tactics in the Suburban than he did in the Met Mile, when he pressed the pace while racing four wide. Jerkens would like to see him settle more in the Suburban under Kent Desormeaux. The two will break from post 4.

"He's not going to be pressing a fast pace," Jerkens said. "He's going to have to revert back to a more methodical race like he did at Gulfstream. He's adaptable in his training, so I'm hoping he's adaptable during his races."

Corinthian has been known to be difficult in the paddock or around the gate. Jerkens has schooled him twice in the paddock since the Met.

"He seems like he's doing great," Jerkens said. "He doesn't look like he's stubbed his toe since his last race, so we expect another big effort out of him."

Hesanoldsalt has been running big races since December, with a Grade 3 stakes win and five consecutive second-place finishes. In addition to finishing second to Corinthian in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, he was also second to Invasor in the Donn and second to Flashy Bull in the William Donald Schaefer. Most recently, he was beaten five lengths in the Birdstone by Papi Chullo, who ran his career best that day.

"He always comes with his race," said trainer Nick Zito. "He's a very solid horse."

Fairbanks, a son of Giant's Causeway who cost $1.8 million as a yearling, is the wild card in the race. He is coming off the best race of his life, having won the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita in front-running fashion by 6 3/4 lengths. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.87 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 115. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he figures to be the pacesetter on Saturday under Richard Migliore.

"I think my horse is pretty straightforward," Migliore said. "We're going to go out and go to the lead, and if he can go that far he has a chance to make it."

Political Force, trained by Allen Jerkens was gaining on Corinthian in the stretch of the Met Mile. He seems to be much improved since having a chip removed from an ankle last fall.

Evening Attire, a 9-year-old gelding, will be making his fourth appearance in the Suburban. He has finished fifth twice and was fourth in 2002. His lone win from 16 starts at Belmont came in the 2001 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Longshot Malibu Moonshine completes the field.