06/22/2012 5:07PM

Belmont Park notes: Flying Zee Stables trainers still in rebuild mode

Tom Keyser
The Prize Fighter comes into the Mike Lee Stakes off a first-level allowance victory.

ELMONT, N.Y. – It has been nearly a year since Carl Lizza, the head of Flying Zee Stables, died. The operation, now run by his widow Viane, has undergone a major downsizing that has greatly impacted two of the stable’s trainers.

Phil Serpe and Carlos Martin, who trained the bulk of Flying Zee’s horses, are definitely in rebuilding mode. Though Serpe is having a nice Belmont meet with six winners from 19 starters, he is only 9 for 42 on the year.

“I was hoping we’d pick up a few more clients, but so far it hasn’t happened; hopefully it will,” Serpe said Friday. “We have some people talking about giving us some horses.”

Serpe said he has 24 horses in his barn – seven for Flying Zee. He said some of his clients purchased four yearlings from the Flying Zee dispersal late last year.

Serpe said he enjoys working for Viane Lizza and is hoping she decides to return to the yearling and 2-year-old sales in the future.

“She’s great to work with, she really is, she doesn’t press on you,” Serpe said. “Considering, we’re doing all right.”

At last year’s Belmont meet, Martin finished as the sixth leading trainer, with 16 wins from 51 starters. This year, he is 0 for 35 at the meet, with 5 seconds and 7 thirds. Overall, Martin, who won a single-year-best 50 races in 2011, is just 3 for 81 this year.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Martin, who has retained three horses for Flying Zee as part of his 30-horse stable. “It seems like I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked, and it’s just hard getting a winner. This game will definitely humble you.”

On Sunday, Serpe and Martin will both represent Flying Zee in stakes races for New York-breds at Belmont Park.

In the $125,000 Mike Lee, Serpe will send out The Prize Fighter, while Martin will run Night Maneuver, who is making his 3-year-old debut.

In the $125,000 Bouwerie, Serpe will send out Harbor Mist, a winner of three of her last four starts.

Carl Lizza was at Belmont last July 1 when The Prize Fighter finished second in his debut. A week later, he passed away.

The Prize Fighter won his next start at Saratoga on Aug. 13, but was winless in his next five starts before winning a first-level allowance here May 12.

“I was a little concerned with that horse when I brought him back from Florida that maybe he wasn’t as much horse as I thought he could be,” Serpe said. “But I was encouraged by his last race, and I think he’ll give a good effort on Sunday.”

Night Maneuver won the first three starts of his career, including the Bertam Bongard at seven furlongs here last October. He finished third in an open-company overnight stakes last November, but has not started since. He has had surgery to remove a chip out of his knee.

“We were looking for a two-other-than, but it didn’t fill and he worked so good with Edgar [Prado] we decided to take a long look in there,” Martin said. “Last year, as a 2-year-old, Night Maneuver was just better [than The Prize Fighter]. I told Mrs. Lizza it’s better to have two chances for the price of one. They both fit.”

Harbor Mist is in career form entering the Bouwerie and already has won twice at this meet.

“It’s hard not to like that filly,” Serpe said. “I realize she ran in a four-horse field last time, but they were older fillies that she had to run against. She just churns them out. I think she’s coming into the race in good form, and hopefully, she’ll run well.”

The Lumber Guy gets back to work

The Lumber Guy, winner of the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct in April, worked three furlongs in 36.16 seconds Friday morning over the Belmont training track.

It was his first breeze since he returned to trainer Mike Hushion following a four-week freshening on owner Barry Schwartz’s upstate New York farm.

“I was very happy with the way he looked when he came in,” Hushion said.

Hushion said he wasn’t looking for the Lumber Guy to go quite that quick for his first work back, but “good horses will do that,” he said.

Hushion said the summer goals for The Lumber Guy are the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes going 6 1/2 furlongs on July 29 followed by the Grade 1 King’s Bishop on Aug 25.

Hushion said that Nicole H, narrow loser of the Vagrancy on June 2, will be pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss on Aug. 3 followed by the Ballerina on Aug. 24.

Street Life works toward Jim Dandy

Street Life, the fourth-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, worked four furlongs in 49.40 seconds Friday morning as he prepares for a probable start in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28.

Street Life worked in company with Wise Guy Charlie.

Cherie DeVaux, the Belmont-based assistant to trainer Chad Brown, said Street Life was a bit tired in the days following the Belmont Stakes.

“Since he went back to the track, he’s been back to his normal self, bouncing around,” DeVaux said.