(Crupi wins the G2 Suburban Stakes at Saratoga / Photo by Susie Raisher & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team / Mary Eddy:

A thrilling stretch drive saw six horses across the racetrack at the top of the stretch in Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban, but it was the Irad Ortiz, Jr.-piloted Crupi who turned back all challengers to capture the 10-furlong test for older horses at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course.

The Suburban was one of nine graded stakes lined up on the loaded 14-race Belmont Stakes Day card, which is highlighted by the 156th running of the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 12.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, the 4-year-old Curlin chestnut posted his first graded stakes victory with a well-timed ride by Ortiz, Jr., aboard for the first time in the afternoon. The son of Curlin rebounded well from a distant off-the-board finish in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Trainer Todd Pletcher: 

“I said he ran so bad in Dubai it didn’t take anything out of him. He shipped back really well,” said Pletcher. “We took our time with him. He probably could have been ready a little earlier but we wanted to be conservative and wait for this. Since he got back from Dubai we’ve been pointing for this. I’m glad it worked out.”

Crupi emerged from post 6-of-7 after the scratch of stablemate Charge It this morning, and brushed with post-time favorite Bendoog to his outside before settling in last early as Kuchar rushed up to take command past the wire for the first time and through an opening quarter-mile in 23.70 seconds over the fast footing. Signator slipped up the rail in the first turn to take up third position behind the wide-running Good Skate.

Pletcher, who won his third consecutive Suburban and fourth overall after winning with Keen Ice [2017], Dynamic One [2022] and Charge It [2023], said Crupi showed courage to win after such a wide stretch run.

“My concern was that I didn’t see a whole lot of pace, on paper, and he’s not the kind of horse where you can change his style. He’s a horse that wants to make one late run,” said Pletcher. “We had to sacrifice some ground around the far turn to get him in the clear, but he kept coming. He showed a lot of courage in the lane. He fought hard for the win.”

The win marked the fourth Suburban for Ortiz, Jr., who said Crupi was well within himself.

Rider Irad Ortiz, Jr.: 

“He cooperated so well with me, to be honest. He was doing everything I asked him to do. He broke good,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He doesn’t have too much speed early, so he just sat back and relaxed. He started moving forward on his own. I was happy, so I just bided my time until it was time ask him to go. By the turn, I asked him to go forward and he did and he kept kicking in until the end. He really stays. At the eighth-pole, I asked him a couple times and he kept coming; kept grinding.”

Pletcher added future targets at the Spa for Crupi at the Spa could include the nine-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 3 and/or the 10-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 1.

“I guess we’ve got the Jockey Club at a mile-and-a-quarter at the end of the meet. We’ll see what we do between now and then,” Pletcher said. “I suppose the Whitney is a possibility.”

Bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm, Crupi won a pair of Listed stakes this winter at Aqueduct Racetrack in the Discovery and Queens County ahead of a third-place effort in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January at Gulfstream Park. He earned $192,500 for his Suburban victory and improved his lifetime record to 15-5-2-4 while returning $7.10 on a $2 win ticket.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who sent out Arthur’s Ride to dominate a 10-furlong allowance in 2:00.99 yesterday at the Spa, said runner-up and beaten favorite Bendoog, who was dual group-placed in Dubai, was valiant in defeat.

Trainer Bill Mott: 

“He ran well. He had a decent trip. They ran two seconds slower than the horse did yesterday,” Mott Said. “I don’t know if the track’s the same. He kept trying, you know? He kept trying. He got the distance, but barely. Coming around the first turn he was three-wide [but] he came from the outside post. It’s just what happens. I’m sure if he could have tucked in behind two horses [he would have], but he had no chance to really tuck in.”