10/02/2012 2:46PM

Belmont: Brigand shows strong body of work for Thursday allowance

Barbara D. Livingston
Since a sharp Saratoga victory, Brigand has worked over Belmont’s main track four times, capped by a bullet five-furlong breeze last week.

Brigand, who was a punctual favorite in the Travers Day opener at minuscule odds, will be a clear favorite again when he takes on seven rival New York-breds in Thursday’s featured fifth race at Belmont, a one-mile optional claimer with second-level allowance conditions.

In retrospect, Brigand could hardly have picked tougher spots in his first two appearances after being shipped from California to New York by trainer Bob Baffert. He finished second in the Jerome behind The Lumber Guy, winner of Saturday’s Vosburgh Invitational, and second again in the Mike Lee to Willy Beamin, who subsequently won the Albany and King’s Bishop during a four-day stretch at Saratoga and was nipped late in Sunday’s Oklahoma Derby.

After that, Brigand returned to Southern California to set the pace in a first-level allowance route at Del Mar, but was overtaken by his stablemate Jaycito, who had garnered his maiden victory in the 2010 running of the Grade 1 Norfolk.

“He’s gotten beat by good horses every time,” said Baffert of Brigand, who was purchased as a 2-year-old for $925,000. “I named him for a famous Quarter Horse that ran about 50 years ago.”

Since his sharp Saratoga score, Brigand has worked over Belmont’s main track four times, capped by a bullet five-furlong breeze last week.

Mineswept, a durable 5-year-old entered for the $25,000 claim price, owns three of the field’s five wins over the track. He was claimed by Leah Gyarmati for $14,000 out of a win on Belmont Stakes Day, and won himself out more than three times over in two starts at Saratoga that included a win at this level.

Mineswept is in for $25,000, as is Most Happy Fella. Most Happy Fella is making his second start off a claim by Richard Dutrow Jr.

Bigger Is Bettor had a productive 2011 campaign for Rodrigo Ubillo that included a win in the Albany Stakes at 26-1 and a runner-up finish to Ron the Greek. This will be his first start since clipping heels and unseating Eddie Castro at Belmont’s sprint meet.

Bigger Is Bettor picks up longshot specialist Wilmer Garcia, who became a five-pound apprentice earlier at the fall meet.

Fortitude, Moonlight Song, Pure Attitude and Quiet Favorite complete the field.