06/29/2006 12:00AM

Suburban intrigue centers on lack of early pace


ELMONT, N.Y. - The defection of Bandini from Saturday's $400,000 Suburban Handicap not only took a Grade 1 winner from the field, but also took the primary speed out of the race.

could play cat and mouse on the lead in the Grade 1 Suburban, though none of their connections really want to see their horse setting the pace in the 1 1/4-mile race.

Invasor comes off an upset victory in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special. He raced within a length of the pacesetting Wanderin Boy through the first six furlongs, dropped back at the quarter pole, then came on again to get the win.

"We'll be forwardly placed, but hopefully following one or two," said Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Invasor. "We haven't quite learned his real style of running yet. He was closer than I thought last time."

Invasor is a proven marathon specialist. In Uruguay, he twice won at 1 1/4 miles or farther. He won the Pimlico Special at 1 3/16 miles.

"I think he wants every bit of a mile and a quarter plus," McLaughlin said.

Fernando Jara will ride Invasor, the 118-pound highweight, from post 6.

Wild Desert, who won the Queen's Plate last year, raced close to the pace when second, beaten a head, in the Alysheba Stakes on May 5 at Churchill Downs, his first race in 10 months. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said he instructed rider Rafael Bejarano to put Wild Desert into the race that day, but said Thursday he would not instruct new rider Edgar Prado to do likewise on Saturday. That was before Wild Desert drew the rail.

"I'm under the impression we have to bring him from a little bit further back," Dutrow said. "When he gets the lead he kind of hangs."

Rathor has won all three of his starts since coming to North America for trainer Bobby Frankel, who won the 1970 Suburban with Barometer and the 2004 edition with Peace Rules. Frankel said he would leave the decision on where to place Rathor on Saturday up to jockey Eibar Coa.

Frankel is hopeful that Rathor can finish the Suburban as well as he has finished in his last three races.

"Every race he's been in he's finishing real strong, and the times show it," Frankel said.

Tap Day, who has won 11 of 24 starts, including the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup, finished second to Offlee Wild in last year's Suburban. He is 2 for 3 at Belmont and comes off a solid three-length allowance win here May 12.

Mark Hennig, the trainer of Tap Day, will also saddle Wilko, the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner. Hennig received Wilko in his barn after the horse finished fifth in the Metropolitan Handicap here on Memorial Day. Wilko will run in blinkers for the first time.

Hennig said that Wilko "has worked well with them. But he worked well without them, too."

Trainer Nick Zito, who won this race in 2001 with Albert the Great, sends out the uncoupled entry of Andromeda's Hero and Noble Causeway.

The field

Suburban Handicap
Purse: $400,000; 1 1/4 miles; Grade 1

1Wild DesertE. Prado1163-1
2WilkoG. Gomez1168-1
3Andromeda's HeroC. Velasquez1158-1
4Noble CausewayJ. Castellano1148-1
5RathorE. Coa1154-1
6InvasorF. Jara1182-1
7Tap DayJ. Velazquez1166-1

* Odds by Art Gropper
* Television: Saturday, 5-6 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN