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Dwyer, Suburban promise fierce competition

ELMONT, N.Y. – Like the Grade 1 Prioress, both the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes and the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on Saturday’s Fourth of July card at Belmont Park have much to offer in terms of storied history and fierce competition in their respective renewals.

Saturday’s 93rd running of the Dwyer Stakes for three-year-olds comes with its own unique story. Named for Mike and Phil Dwyer – whose Dwyer Brothers Stable campaigned five Belmont Stakes winners in the 1880s – the $200,000, 1 1/16 mile Dwyer will kick off The New York Racing Association, Inc.’s regular Saturday afternoon $350,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 in the eighth race.

Most accomplished in the field of seven starters is Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farm LLC’s Kensei. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Kensei has won two of five career starts and last ran third in the Grade 2, seven-furlong Woody Stephens at Belmont on June 6.

“He’s really come around nicely this year,” Asmussen said. “A mile and a sixteenth is a question for him, but he came out of the Woody Stephens well. He’s never been in an easy race.”

Kensei has faced some tough competition – in the Woody Stephens he rallied behind 5¼-length winner Munnings, and in the Grade 3 Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs in April he was a willing second behind Hull.

A. Stevens Miles, Jr.’s Warrior’s Reward is another who has rallied behind sharp horses this year. Second to Belmont Stakes runner-up Dunkirk in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in February, the Medaglia d’Oro colt has finished worse than second only once in five lifetime starts, running eighth in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby in March. He will break from Post Position 1 with last weekend’s Mother Goose-winning jockey Calvin Borel in the irons.

Also looking for his first graded stakes win in the Dwyer is Edward P. Evans’ American Dance. An impressive 6¼-length allowance winner here at Belmont on May 21, the colt ran third behind Old Fashioned and Atomic Rain in the Grade 2 Remsen last year in his only previous stakes appearance.

“He seems to be an improving colt,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “I am hoping his last race was a breakthrough for him. I wish the [Dwyer] was a mile and an eighth or longer, but he has been training well for this.”

Completing the field for the Dwyer are Centennial Farms’ Convocation, Peachtree Stables’ Masala, Lael Stable’s Just Ben and Robert Zollars’ Sunday Sunrise.

Saturday’s stakes action draws to a close with the 123rd running of the Suburban Handicap, the richest race on the day’s card at $400,000.

Making his second start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is Sheikh Mohammed’s Asiatic Boy, who comes off a strong second place finish to Macho Again in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 13 and will carry high weight in the 1¼-mile Suburban at 122 pounds.

“Carrying high weight of 122 pounds wouldn’t please any trainer, but I understand, as he carried 122 last time,” McLaughlin said.

Despite the weight and a tough trip, 6-year-old Asiatic Boy showed his class in the Stephen Foster. A winner of more than $3 million in Dubai, the race was his first start in the United States.

“He ran great,” McLaughlin said. “He had a troubled trip and still ran second. Him and [third-place finisher] Einstein beat each other up a little bit trying for the same hole twice.”

Let’s Go Stable’s Ready’s Echo, also a victim of traffic trouble in last month’s Grade 1 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap, is looking to improve in the Suburban, his third start this year.

“I thought he ran pretty well in the Met Mile,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “This will be his third start off the layoff and I think a mile and a quarter should suit him. I am optimistic he will run well.”

It’s a Bird, second in lifetime earnings in the field behind Asiatic Boy with a $1,412,885 bankroll will try for his third straight stakes win of 2009 for owner Edmund A. Gann and trainer Marty Wolfson.

The six-year-old son of Birdonthewire narrowly defeated Jonesboro in the Grade 2 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 25 coming off an easy six-length score in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in early April.

Rounding out the field for the Suburban are Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing’s Finallymadeit, Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini, Louis Zito’s Stud Muffin, Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Rising Moon, Pablo Gomez’s Real Merchant (CHI), Robert V. LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man and Shadwell Stable’s Samhoon.


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