06/23/2010 11:00PM

Belmont roundup



Nick Zito's 3-year-olds

Ice Box, Jackson Bend, and Fly Down gave the ever-quotable trainer in-the-money finishes in each of the Triple Crown races, right or wrong?

But we're not talking about them; we're talking about sit-up-and-take-notice performances by five other Zito-trained 3-year-olds since Memorial Day, those coming in chronological order from Miner's Reserve, Shirley She Can, Wake Maker, Our Dark Knight, and Gallant Fields.

Miner's Reserve, beaten 30-plus lengths in the Florida Derby and Derby Trial, stumbled at the break but recovered to post a front-end win over first-level allowance milers on Memorial Day, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. The Mineshaft colt has since breezed a couple of 48-and-change half-miles.

Shirley She Can, by the smoking-hot turf sire Rock Hard Ten, became Zito's first grass winner since at least 2008 when she wired maidens first time on turf June 4.

Wake Maker caught a speed-friendly track June 11, and the second-time starter improved 20 Beyer points to a 93 wiring maiden special weight milers under a hand ride.

Our Dark Knight was out of my jurisdiction at Monmouth last Saturday but nevertheless was impressive taking a second-level allowance by three lengths. His Beyer line reads 73-80-89-91-94-96, so triple-digits may be in his immediate future.

Gallant Fields may have turned in the most eye-catching run of them all when he drew off with authority for a maiden win in his second career start last Sunday.

Dominick Schettino's turf horses

So who had the Bronx native in the pool for most turf wins at the meet? With four weeks remaining, only Hall of Famer Bill Mott (9 for 23) had more wins on the grass than Schettino, who celebrated his 44th birthday by sending out

Felinefelon ($13.60), one of just two winners he has had on the main track at the meet.

On grass, however, he was 8 for 31 through Tuesday, including wins last week from Dos Hombres ($7) in his first start since last December and Angel Wave ($13.20), who graduated on the 13th try in a turf sprint.

Schettino's average mutuel of $12, tops among the 12 leading trainers, also includes grass winners J L Bernstein ($23.20), Ms Stilleto ($9.80), Xela ($13.20), Bobs Pinup Girl ($15.40), and Lovely Promise ($16.40).

Bet against at your own risk.


Main track: Front-running speed had the best of it to begin the week Wednesday, June 16. At least, that was the impression from three wire-to-wire winners from the four dirt races.

Things appeared neutral the following afternoon, but mark down Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19, as exceptionally hospitable to stretch-running types.

Of the five dirt races Friday -- none with more than seven horses -- four winners were more than three lengths from the lead at the first call.

Of the five dirt races Saturday, three winners overcame early deficits ranging from five to 10 lengths.

The four dirt races Sunday -- again, none with more than seven horses -- were all won by stalkers within one or two lengths of the early lead.

Turf courses: Thanks to the cooperation of Mother Nature, once again there were more turf races than dirt races (25 to 22).

Only two of the 25 winners were able to lead past every pole, those being Ezzy ($32) in a turf sprint on the Widener course and The Plot Thickens ($12.20), who had surrendered eight clear leads since a maiden win here 13 months earlier. Go figure.


By Tuesday, Todd Pletcher had Ailalea, Devil May Care, and Katy Now targeted to Saturday's 54th running of the Mother Goose, a $250,000 Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies that has been shortened to 1 1/16 miles for the first time since its first two editions in 1957-58.

Devil May Care, who made a big middle move in the Kentucky Derby before flattening out, won the Grade 1 Frizette in her first and only start on this track last fall. She will be tough to beat.

The new faces are Connie and Michael, who has won her two one-turn starts by a combined 13 lengths, and Biofuel, a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Biofuel comes off back-to-back stakes wins at her Woodbine base to begin the year.

Next Saturday's Suburban, a Grade 2 at 1 1/8 miles, may mark the return of I Want Revenge, who has been sidelined for more than a year since winning the Gotham and Wood Memorial in 2009. He will be making his first start for Rick Dutrow Jr., who won the Suburban two years ago with Frost Giant.

The Sunday, July 4, card will feature the 63rd running of the Grade 1 Prioress for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs and the 54th Bed o' Roses Handicap, formerly a Grade 2 run at Aqueduct and downgraded this year to Grade 3 status.

The New York-bred Franny Freud, whose three-race winning streak began with the Grade 2 Beaumont, is targeting the Prioress along with Acorn upsetter Champagne d'Oro.

Among the nominees for the Bed o' Roses are Hour Glass and Rightly So, the one-two finishers in the Vagrancy earlier at this meet, and last year's champion filly-mare sprinter, Informed Decision.


On the Friday, June 18, card, there were seven runners sired by Belmont Stakes winners, all but one of whom finished first or second:

Bahama Bound ($9.40), by 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker, took the opener, with Station Hill, by 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy, running fourth.

Commonwealth Rush ($5.20) won his 2-year-old debut, emulating his sire, 2005 Belmont winner Afleet Alex.

Zaphyra ($4.10), a daughter of 1998 Belmont winner Victory Gallop, won the third race, with Kid Kate, by 1999 Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid, completing the exacta.

The day was completed by Dear Marylou and Birdrun, two progeny of 2004 winner Birdstone, who ran second in their respective races.


Commonwealth Rush

Trainer: Tim Ice

Last race: June 18, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 1/2

Bet down to 8-5 favoritism in the final minutes, this 2-year-old by Afleet Alex broke alertly and held on gamely through prolonged pace pressure to graduate at first asking.

Gallant Fields

Trainer: Nick Zito

Last race: June 20, 4th

Finish: 1st by 8 1/4

After running third in his seven-furlong debut, this 3-year-old colt by Smarty Jones stretched out to a mile, pressed the early leader, and drew off to win with authority, earning an 87 Beyer Figure.

Let's Get Fiscal

Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.

Last race: June 17, 4th

Finish: 1st by 5 1/2

From the first crop of Bandini, this $130,000 OBS February sale purchase was bet to 19-10 and widened through the lane in a sharp 57.79 seconds for five furlongs.


Trainer: Bill Mott

Last race: June 16, 6th

Finish: 2nd by 2

Reared at the break to spot the field several lengths, moved to contention widest around the clubhouse turn and fought for the lead past midstretch, but had to settle for the runner-up spot in a 10-furlong maiden route on the inner turf.

Silk Route

Trainer: Bill Mott

Last race: June 17, 6th

Finish: 1st by 1 1/2

A Juddmonte Farm homebred by Empire Maker, she improved when stretched out to 1 1/8 miles on the turf for her second career start, overcoming traffic at the quarter pole to outfinish an odds-on favorite with something in reserve.