Mr. Buff (Chester and Mary Broman), winner of his last three races and six of his last eight starts, will return off a near four-month respite in headlining a nine-horse field of New York-breds 3-years-old and up in the $125,000 Commentator Stakes at Belmont Park on Friday, June 12.
The eighth running of the Commentator Stakes will be contested as a one-mile handicap; the same distance the Friend Or Foe gelding dominated last out when he romped a five-horse field by 20 lengths in the Haynesfield on February 22 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Mr. Buff tied a personal best with a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort, building on a five-length score in the Jazil on January 25 at 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy Big A main track that earned him a 101 figure. Trainer John Kimmel said jockey Junior Alvarado has been impressed with Mr. Buff's workouts at Belmont Park as he looks to continue his 6-year-old campaign in strong fashion.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|Louis Linder, Jr.
|John Terranova II
||Build to Suit
||Pat On the Back
||My Boy Tate
"Junior worked him the last two times and said he was pretty awesome," Kimmel said. "I've been down here in Florida. But he's been working on the main track at Belmont and I think he's doing fine. Hopefully, he can pick up where he left off."
An eight-time stakes winner, Mr. Buff, the 127-pound highweight, will be running in the Commentator for a third time and is looking for his first victory in the race after running third in last year's edition. He last worked Thursday on Big Sandy, going five furlongs in 59.39 seconds.
"He's doing very good and hopefully he can show up again. A mile is within his scope," Kimmel said. "He's just been really consistent. He's stayed healthy and when he gets in the right situation against the right group of horses, he's shown up very often."
Alvarado will have the call for the sixth consecutive time, drawing post 7.
One of the challengers looking to stymie Mr. Buff's momentum is Funny Guy, a two-time stakes winner who will be making his first start since September for trainer John Terranova.
Before running sixth in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby on September 29 at Remington Park, the Big Brown colt bested fellow state breds to win the 1 1/8-mile Albany on August 23 at Saratoga Race Course.
Funny Guy, with nearly nine months off, has recorded 13 official workouts at Belmont since March. Terranova said he is looking forward to seeing Funny Guy back in action in Friday's restricted test.
"He's been training really well and looks great," Terranova said. "He's been ready to run for a little bit now and is just waiting like everyone else. I think the mile for him is a good distance to get started back."
Owned by Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable, Funny Guy is 3-4-0 in 10 career starts.
Jockey Joel Rosario will pick up the mount for the first time and will break from post 3. Funny Guy will carry 119 pounds.
Pat On the Back will make his first start as a 6-year-old for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. The son of Congrats ended his 2019 campaign with a 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile but still posted an impressive year in which he won the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at the Commentator distance on September 21 at Belmont.
Additionally, Pat On the Back registered wins in the Commentator and Affirmed Success. He has already earned millionaire status for owners Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables, posting a 9-4-6 record in 28 lifetime starts for earnings of $1.14 million.
Carrying 124 pounds, Pat On the Back will have Dylan Davis ride from post 8.
Bankit has finished second three times through the first five starts of his 4-year-old year and will look to finally breakthrough for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The Central Banker colt will step back up to stakes company after running second in an optional claimer on May 2 at Oaklawn Park.
Bankit ran second by a head to Warrior's Charge in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on February 17 at Oaklawn. Carrying 123 pounds, Bankit will also have a rider change, as Belmont spring/summer meet-leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call from post 1.
Build to Suit, carrying 122 pounds, has won two in a row and three of his last four for trainer Chad Brown. Sired by Dominus, the 6-year-old went 3-1-0 in four starts in 2019, starting with an allowance win that netted him a 101 Beyer in January and concluding with a 2 ½ length win in the Hudson on October 19 at Belmont.
Manny Franco will be tasked with starting his new year in strong fashion, breaking from post 4.
Trainer Michelle Nevin entered a pair of contenders in My Boy Tate and Honor Up.
A winner of a seven-furlong stakes in the Thunder Rumble division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series in November at Aqueduct, My Boy Tate ran second, two lengths back to Amundson, in the Hollie Hughes on February 17 at the Big A. Nevin will run him at one mile for the first time since April 2017, where he will have the services of jockey Jose Ortiz from post 9 carrying 120 pounds.
Honor Up, second to Mr. Buff in the Haynesfield, is the more experienced of the Nevin pair at one mile, posting a 2-2-1 record at the distance. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will be in the irons from post 6. Honor Up will carry 121 pounds.
Rounding out the field is Blewitt, a five-length winner of an optional claimer on April 9 for trainer Todd Pletcher, from post 5 [Hall of Famer John Velazquez, 117 pounds]; and Whistling Birds, conditioned by Louis Linder, Jr., making his first stakes appearance in seven starts [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche, 116 pounds].
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