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Solid Field Lining Up for Saturday’s Suburban Handicap

Stay Thirsty Eyes Comeback Victory

Three leading contenders for this Saturday’s (July 7) Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park hit the track on Sunday morning, July 1, to turn in their final breezes prior to the 1 1/8-mile race.

Teeth of the Dog (at right) holds off the late-charging Fast Falcon to win the Grade 2, $200,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park last Saturday, June 30.

Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty, working in company with Rule, breezed five furlongs on the main track in 1:00.05 with Javier Castellano aboard. Winner of the 2011 Grade 1 Travers Stakes, Stay Thirsty has made one start in 2012, a second to Suburban hopeful Trickmeister in the Vanlandingham overnight stakes on May 17 at Belmont.

“I thought he worked really well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “Both this work and the one before were like what we saw before the Travers. He’s in good form.”

To Honor and Serve and exercise rider Rudolphe Brisset took to the training track to turn in a 47.56 fourfurlong breeze, the third quickest of 62 workouts at the distance. A fivetime graded stakes winner whose resume includes a victory in last year’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap, the Live Oak homebred looks to regain the winning thread after finishing third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 28.

“If all goes well and he comes out of the work happy and is feeling good, then we’ll run him in the Suburban,” said trainer Bill Mott. “Hopefully he’ll run well and come back in good enough shape to run in the Whitney Stakes [Grade 1, Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course].”

Completing the list of Suburban workers was Stuart S. Janney, III’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book, who was clocked going four furlongs on the main track in 47.05, the second fastest of 71 moves.

“He’s coming into the race great,” said Buzz Tenney, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey. “He’s an honest, hard-trying horse, and he’ll give a good account of himself.”

Stakes watch

In a separate four-furlong breeze on the training track, Al Khali, Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s contender for the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes on July 14 at Belmont, was clocked in 47.50. Mott said he also has James S. Karp’s Newsdad under consideration for the race.

In her first workout since her dominant victory in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap on June 16, Benjamin Leon’s Royal Delta traveled four furlongs on the main track in 48.29.

“Nice and smooth,” said Mott. “She did it easy, in hand, striding along. Seems happy.”

Point of Entry, victorious in the Grade 2 Elkhorn and a probable for the Man o’ War for McGaughey and owner Phipps Stable, posted a 1:00.96 five-furlong breeze on the inner turf.

Cheyenne Stables’ Mystical Star came out of her victory in last Saturday’s Grade 2 New York Stakes in “good order,” trainer Christophe Clement reported Sunday morning.

“She’s a little stiff, but not bad,” said Clement. “She looks well.”

Clement has won the past two graded stakes on turf at Belmont, having also taken the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes on June 16 with Summer Front.

In addition, Clement has recent allowance winner Barocci, a son of Japanese Triple Crown winner Deep Impact, under consideration for the Grade 1 Man o’ War on July 14.

Matz riding high

Trainer Michael Matz reported on Sunday morning that Teeth of the Dog, winner of Saturday’s Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes, was enjoying the first day of his summer vacation at the Fair Hill training center in Elkton, Md.

“He was out in the paddock this morning and it looked like he was enjoying himself,” said Matz. “We’ll look for something for him in about five or six weeks.”

Among the options Matz mentioned for Teeth of the Dog is the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course on July 28.

Matz added that Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags would likely make his next start in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in preparation for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

Mareina settles in

Mike Mareina first came to Belmont Park for a few months in the fall of 1980 as an assistant to trainer Loren Rettele, saddling Golden Act to a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Man o’ War. It took him 32 years to return, but the wait so far has been worthwhile.

With a string of 15 horses for owners Ernie Kuehne, Chris Baccari and Charles Arlington, Mareina has been winning at a nearly 36 percent clip, with five victories from 14 starters along with a second and two thirds.

His first winner was Onthekisser, who took a maiden claimer on May 6 and has since returned to finish third and fourth, and his most recent was Won Kool Kid, who broke his maiden going seven furlongs on Saturday.

Mareina also visited the winner’s circle with Heir to Dare, Alternative and Divine Music, who posted a lifetime best 103 Beyer Speed Figure in takinga51/2-furlongoptional claimer in 1:01.51 on June 6.

“I love it here,” said Mareina, who has competed up and down the coast of California, as well as in the Midwest, Washington state, Louisiana, Florida and Canada. “Every horse I work is working well. I can’t say enough about how well the tracks are maintained, and with the nice one-mile training track, it affords you all the opportunities to get a horse in a good atmosphere and a good training situation.”

Mareina has had chances to come to New York before, both as an assistant to late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel and trainer Phil Hauswald, and on his own, but it wasn’t until this year that he felt the timing was right.

“I felt I had the right kind of stock to be competitive,” said Mareina. “I was talking with [Allen] Jerkens at Gulfstream Park, and I told him I was thinking of taking a bite out of the Big Apple. He said, ‘Come on up, there’s plenty of room’ and assured me I would do just fine.”

Mareina, who trained Game On Dude prior to his being sold and transferred to Bob Baffert in the spring of 2010, currently has eight promising 2-year-olds at Belmont and will add another four or five when racing moves upstate to Saratoga Springs on July 20.

Although he has two stalls in Jerkens’ barn at the Spa, Mareina plans to spend most of his time at Belmont getting ready for the return of racing in September with horses such as the two-year-old filly Work N Flirt, a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Zavata, and the recently acquired Little Drama, halfbrother to 2010 Sprint champion Big Drama.

“We’re concentrating now on quality instead of quantity,” said Mareina. “I selected horses that I thought would do nicely at Belmont Park, such as Divine Music. You have to have luck, of course, and you have to have horses that like the track. I’m super pleased with how well my horses have adapted and I’m looking forward to the fall.”

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