06/03/2005 11:00PM

Belmont loses Scrappy T, gains 'Indy'


ELMONT, N.Y. - After agonizing over a decision for the last week, the connections of Preakness runner-up Scrappy T have decided to pass on Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes.

But the race did gain an additional entrant Saturday when trainer Nick Zito said that Indy Storm, an allowance winner on Preakness Day at Pimlico, would join the field. Thus, Zito will have three of the

11 horses expected to run in the 137th Belmont field. Post positions for the Belmont, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be drawn at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at the Garden Terrace dining room on the fourth floor at Belmont Park.

Afleet Alex, the Preakness winner and likely Belmont favorite, arrived at Belmont Park late Saturday afternoon after vanning up from Pimlico. Afleet Alex and stablemate Always Noble, nominated to Saturday's True North Handicap, were bedded down in Belmont's Barn 14.

Robert Bailes, the trainer of Scrappy T, said the decision to skip the Belmont ultimately came down to his concerns about the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont.

"I wasn't 100 percent confident [with] him going that distance and what it was going to take out of him," Bailes said Saturday morning. "Better safe than sorry."

Bailes, who trains Scrappy T for Marshall Dowell, said the fact Scrappy T is a gelding and not a colt - meaning a Belmont win would have no residual value - also played a part in the decision.

"It was a very hard call," Bailes said. "Me and the owner talked again [Saturday] morning about it. Maybe if he were a colt we probably would have made a different decision than what we made. We doggone enjoyed New York so much, of the three [Triple Crown races] this is the one we wanted to go to the most. We thought we halfway managed him right, no sense screwing him up now."

Bailes said he wasn't sure when or where Scrappy T would run next, though it is likely the horse would ship to Colonial Downs in Virginia to train. Bailes did say races like the Haskell, to be run Aug. 7 at Monmouth Park, and the Travers, at Saratoga on Aug. 27, are races he would like to make.

Zito has had his top 3-year-olds at Saratoga for several weeks. On Saturday morning, Andromeda's Hero and Indy Storm worked seven furlongs in company over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track. Andromeda's Hero, under Juan Villalongo, was credited with a time of 1:30.06, while Indy Storm, under George Abreu, was timed in 1:30.18. Clockers at Saratoga said the track was fast, but dead.

Andromeda's Hero finished eighth behind Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby, a race in which the fifth- through 11th-place finishers were separated by 1 3/4 lengths.

"He has that pedigree that warrants the mile and a half," Zito said. "He's got a female line, they run that far. He'll run all day, it's just a question if he'll run fast enough. I think we'll have a chance."

Zito is also banking on pedigree when it comes to Indy Storm. A son of the 1992 Belmont winner, A.P. Indy, Indy Storm is out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Wind, who is a full sister to Banshee Breeze. Banshee Breeze won the 1998 Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/2 miles.

Indy Storm, a $750,000 yearling purchase by Tracy Farmer, came from off the pace to win an entry-level allowance race at Pimlico on May 21. In his only graded stakes attempt, Indy Storm finished last in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

"I think he's a mile-and-a-half horse for sure," Zito said. "It's the last race of the Triple Crown, and a lot of these horses have pedigree. Indy Storm has the same type of pedigree that Andromeda's Hero has for the Belmont. So I'm going more by that."

Zito said Edgar Prado would ride Indy Storm. Prado and Zito teamed up to win last year's Belmont with Birdstone. Prado also won the 2002 Belmont with Sarava.

It is believed that Zito is the first trainer since 1936 to saddle three horses in the Belmont. Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons won that year's Belmont with Granville, but also ran Teufel and Isolater in that race. Zito ran five in the Kentucky Derby and three in the Preakness.

"With strangles, herpes, and Iraq, what's the big deal if I run three?" Zito said.

Zito said all three of his Belmont horses would van down to Belmont from Saratoga on Wednesday.