Updated on 09/15/2011 2:00PM

Albert defends his turf

Vincent Dusovic/Horsephotos
Tiznow trains at Belmont under exercise rider Ramon Arciga. With defense of his Classic title the main objective, he makes his first start in six months in Saturday's Woodward.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Even if it means running against last year's Horse of the Year, last year's Preakness winner, and Bobby Frankel, trainer Nick Zito has to feel lucky just to be back at Belmont Park.

Coming off a dreadful meet at Saratoga, where he went 1 for 65, including losing with his last 40 starters, Zito turns to his ace handicap horse, Albert the Great, to help stem the tide in Saturday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes, one of three Grade 1 stakes to be run on Belmont's 10-race card. The Woodward, along with the Man o' War, will be televised live on ESPN2 (5 p.m. Eastern). Belmont also hosts the Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies.

With the World Thoroughbred Championships to be run at Belmont in seven weeks, the Woodward, a one-turn, nine-furlong race, has attracted a star-studded field as the first of two prep races to be run here leading up to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

Tiznow, the defending Classic winner and Horse of the Year, makes his first start off a six-month layoff. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite, according to Daily Racing Form's Mike Watchmaker.

Red Bullet, the 2000 Preakness winner, jumps back into Grade 1 company under new rider Gary Stevens following an allowance victory in his first start off a year layoff. Lido Palace's victory over Albert the Great in the Whitney was one of trainer Bobby Frankel's six graded stakes wins at Saratoga. Lido Palace gets the services of Jerry Bailey, who won a Saratoga record 55 races, including 12 stakes.

"You're running against Bobby Frankel, who wins everything; Jerry Bailey, who wins everything; Gary Stevens, who wins everything; and you've got the Horse of the Year," Zito said. "Albert the Great's going to have to be Albert the Great. He's been my ace in the hole for the last couple of years. Hopefully, he comes up with another big effort."

Nowhere has Albert the Great lived up to his name more than at Belmont Park, where he is 6 for 7, including wins in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap, and Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. His rider, Jorge Chavez, has a theory on why Albert the Great is so good at spacious Belmont Park.

"I think he's a big horse, and sometimes big horses need a little room going into the turn," Chavez said. "The best track for a big horse is Belmont because of the huge turns."

Two starts back, Albert the Great whipped Lido Palace by 2 1/4 lengths in the Suburban. In the Whitney, Lido Palace turned the tables, winning by two lengths over Albert the Great, who barely held second. In that race, Albert the Great was conceding nine pounds to Lido Palace. Because the Woodward is run under weight-for-age conditions, all five horses carry 126 pounds.

Zito already feels fortunate that Albert the Great drew post 4, meaning he's outside of Tiznow, who drew post 2. Both horses figure to race on or near the lead.

Tiznow, who has been training up a storm in California since recovering from a back injury, will be ridden by Chris McCarron.

"He's going to be fresh; he's probably going to want to come out of there running," said Jay Robbins, Tiznow's trainer.

Said McCarron: "I expect him to run very well. I don't know if he can win first time right off the bench, but I certainly expect him to run a very creditable race."

Frankel is hoping that Tiznow and Albert the Great hook up at some point. That will enable Bailey to wait to make his move aboard Lido Palace, who closed from fifth to win the Whitney.

"He's got to step up a little more because of the weight," Frankel said.

Lido Palace is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup and would have to be supplemented to the Classic for a fee of $800,000. Frankel said Saturday's race would be a factor in that decision.

Red Bullet would also benefit from a swift pace. Trainer Joe Orseno knows it's a tall order for Red Bullet to step up and win the Woodward in just his second start off a layoff.

"As long as he's running at the end and finishing well, there won't be any disappointments," Orseno said. "I totally expect him to go out there and run a giant, monster race. But you certainly won't find tougher horses to run against."

Country Be Gold, a fourth-level allowance winner in his last start, completes the field.