08/23/2005 12:00AM

Bellamy Road winds up in Travers

Bellamy Road (left), under Maxine Correa, runs nose-to-nose with stablemate Go Now and Carlos Correa in a work on Sunday at Saratoga. Bellamy Road was timed in 59.89 seconds for five furlongs in the mud.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Last year, trainer Nick Zito won the Travers with Birdstone coming off a 12-week layoff and a victory in the Belmont Stakes. Now, Zito is going to try something even more challenging.

Zito confirmed Tuesday morning that would make his highly anticipated return to the races in Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes rather than the $250,000 King's Bishop. The Travers is run at 1 1/4 miles whereas the King's Bishop is contested at seven furlongs.

The Travers will be Bellamy Road's first start in 112 days, or since he finished seventh as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Bellamy Road came out of that race with an injured splint bone and needed three weeks off the track. He began training in June and had his first breeze on July 16. He will run in the Travers off six published workouts.

"Right now, he's ready to run; he looks absolutely beautiful and I'm going to take my shot," said Zito, who ran one-two in last year's Travers with Birdstone and The Cliff's Edge. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

Zito chose the Travers for several reasons, including the presence of the undefeated Lost in the Fog in the King's Bishop. Zito said that if for some reason Lost in the Fog did not enter the King's Bishop on Wednesday, he could change his mind. Entries for both the King's Bishop and Travers were to be taken on Wednesday.

Bellamy Road looms the main speed in the Travers, which was expected to draw a field of seven. Javier Castellano, Bellamy Road's rider in three starts this year, has the return call.

Zito believes the Travers may actually be a better race to build on for the future for Bellamy Road than having to run a hard seven furlongs against Lost in the Fog, arguably the best sprinter in the country.

"That's what we're thinking too," said Zito, who will also start Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda's Hero in the Travers. "Which race really builds? I'm thinking in a way if he comes out of that race good and everything, so be it - we just keep going forward. The Breeders' Cup Classic is still our main thing."

In addition to Birdstone, horses coming off long layoffs have fared well in the Travers. In 2002, Repent ran second to Medaglia d'Oro having not run in 20 weeks. In 2001, Dollar Bill ran third behind Point Given having not run in 16 weeks.

Bellamy Road, owned by George Steinbrenner, came to the fore this spring when he won an allowance race at Gulfstream by 15 3/4 lengths and the Wood Memorial by 17 1/2 lengths. In the Wood, Bellamy Road equaled a 32-year-old track record by running the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.16.

"You got to have the horse; if he pulls it off, it's all Bellamy Road," Zito said. "We don't have much to do with this."

The Travers field, with riders, is expected to be: Andromeda's Hero (Corey Nakatani), Bellamy Road (Castellano), Chekhov (Gary Stevens), Don't Get Mad (Edgar Prado), Flower Alley (John Velazquez), Reverberate (Jose Santos), and Roman Ruler (Jerry Bailey).

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Jim Dandy winner Flower Alley, was not surprised by Zito's decision to run in the Travers.

"It obviously adds pace to the race, and it brings in a very good horse," Pletcher said. "He could potentially run a huge race in there, you just don't know. Watching him work the other day and watching him gallop out, I'd say he's pretty fit. Our horse is ready, too; he's doing well. Hopefully he performs up to our expectations."

Sal Russo, the trainer of Jim Dandy runner-up Reverberate, said he feels Bellamy Road's presence could actually help Reverberate, who showed the ability to rate in the Jim Dandy.

"It might even set up better for us," Russo said. "You don't know till Saturday."

Chekhov, the fourth-place finisher in the Haskell, worked five furlongs in 1:00.23 Tuesday morning over Saratoga's main track.