05/23/2012 3:39PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Zito pulling for Triple Crown bid

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Tom Keyser
Nick Zito has Dialed In back in training after knee surgery.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Nick Zito has sent out the last two winners of the Belmont Stakes that were run when a Triple Crown was on the line.

In 2004, it was Zito’s Birdstone who ran past the fan favorite Smarty Jones to deny him his bid for racing immortality. In 2008, it was Da’ Tara, who went gate to wire in a race in which Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown failed to finish, being pulled up around the far turn by jockey Kent Desormeaux.

This year, when I’ll Have Another attempts to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in the June 9 Belmont, Zito will be a spectator. In fact, this is the first time since 2003 that Zito will not have had a starter in any the three-race Triple Crown series.

Zito, who has won five Triple Crown races, said he will be rooting for I’ll Have Another to pull off the feat. In addition to being a fan of the horse’s relentless style – “He got an incredible will,” Zito said – he loves the fact the horse was a modest purchase at $35,000.

“It’s hard not to root for I’ll Have Another, because the horse is incredible,” Zito said Wednesday morning. “And the story of the $35,000 horse going into this race gives everybody hope. . . . That’s the horse going for the Triple Crown – the $35,000 horse – not the other horses.”

Zito meant that it’s not the seven-figure sales-topper at an auction who is going for the Triple Crown, or the horse with regal bloodlines.

Zito also likes the fact that I’ll Have Another is coming off two races run in similar fashion. Zito noted that Smarty Jones and Big Brown were coming off blow-out victories of 11 1/2 lengths and 5 1/2 lengths, respectively, in the Preakness.

“He’s just running his race every time, not winning by seven lengths or nine lengths,” Zito said. “A lot of people forget Smarty Jones was the winner of the Triple Crown going a mile and a quarter, but the Belmont is a mile and a half. and Birdstone beat him. Big Brown didn’t fire that day and Da’Tara was a mile-and-a-half specialist.”

Zito said he had aspirations of participating in this year’s Belmont with Minescape until that horse finished second in a first-level allowance race at Parx Racing on May 19.

“If he had won I could have been Wayne Lukas for an afternoon,” said Zito, noting Lukas’s tendency to run longshots in the Belmont.

Zito said that his 3-year-old Casual Trick, who was eased in the Wood Memorial, is back in training at Saratoga. He underwent a battery of tests, Zito said, but nothing was discovered. The horse had displaced his palate on two occasions.

“We sent him to a lot of places that’s the best way I could put it,” Zito said. “He’s training now so obviously he’s okay. We’ll monitor him and hopefully find a race, maybe get some confidence and see what happens.”

Zito said that Dialed In, his 2011 Florida Derby winner, is back in training following surgery to remove a knee chip. He hopes that horse will return to the races later this year.

“I got aspirations for him. He’s not done yet,” Zito said. “You haven’t heard the last of him.”

Goldhybrid More than 1 year ago
How can anyone guess the outcome of the Belmont until there's a relevent racing form to refer to? Even if you assemble one out of individual past performances, there are still workouts yet.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
MARIO is going to have a few days at best to get to know belmont... his style and habits from riding over mile traks may do this horse in.... he moves half way thru the belmont turn you'll be drinking your sorrows away.... as rags and dullahan run away from him in deep stretch..
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
Mario has shown himself to be patient - he won't rush, he will let the horse run his race. Out of flower alley the trip should be within his scope. best of all, there is little left to beat. the drought will be over, line up and have a drink.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Mario is predictable, not patient. He waits for the 3/8th and then he starts shaking the rein.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
If the results of Mario's riding style and "predictability" continues to be success for I'll Have Another - just it has been for four straight, amazing wins in the biggest stakes races in America - including the race EVERYONE in horse racing wants to win, The Kentucky Derby - then I say, "Mario, keep on being "predictable", honey!!"
Michael Sperber More than 1 year ago
i thought i was sitting on dynamite with minescape as he had jogged in parx and looked great .than he failed to fire passed a horse in final 70 yards at pimlico in his last. zito is the man .
Harold Felton More than 1 year ago
I've noticed a syndrome regarding how racing writers and other industry types regard Triple Crown contenders. After almost any horse wins the Derby, some discover previously unknown strengths in past performances and/or bloodlines. If that horse then goes on to win the Preakness, probable greatness is thrust upon him and he's made a la I'll Have Another, odds-on to win the Belmont. Unfortunately, I believe this one isn't great now, and never will be, thus I'm afraid he'll be beaten in the Belmont, by whom I do not know. I hope I'm wrong, not just because the business could sure use a Triple Crown winner, but also so for the forseeable future we won't have to read tiresome columns about why it's so hard to accomplish the feat, and foolish ideas about making it easier to achieve. The industry has for twenty years disimproved the breed and clearly has worsened the product.
Paul Garcia More than 1 year ago
How sad for you that you cannot really look deep into the horse's pedigree. Zito apparently can't either. IHA does have a regal pedigree. He has Sea Bird, who won the Prix d'larc de Triophe, in his pedigree. Going back, he has numerous crosses to princequillo and mahmoud, who bring stamina to his pedigree. Moreover, the breeding crosses are logical (some horses have great horses in their pedigree, but it is an illogical mix of different bloodlines).The great horse breeder Tesio was known for taking average horses and mares, breeding them and producing great throughbreds. The genes are there if the breeding is expert. IHA has the pedigree to succeed at Belmont.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paul, Zito is rooting for IHA to win the Bel. Stakes/Tri Cw. He's even gone public and announced to the world in the article above.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
I disagree - I'll Have Another does have greatness - he had greatness written all over him and you could see it from the first two races he ran last year - and you could DEFINITELY see it from his earliest race this year all the way through today. Each race he kept getting better and better. And he always looked strong immediately after each race he ran. He looked strong after hitting the finish line first each and every time. I'll Have Another does everything his connections asks of him and exceeds what is expected of him in each and every race. The only people who have seemed to continually put down I'll Have Another are those who have had to tear up a myriad of losing tickets bet against IHA on Bodemeister, Creative Cause, Union Rags, Gemologist and Liaison in the Lewis, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and The Preakness Stakes. They are the ones who pooh-pooh his victories, trying in vain to explain away why IHA should be considered a champion and making endless mea culpas about other horses who have lost against him. I'll Have Another has great heart, determination, tenacity, a competitive spirit and the will to win - and he seems to love what he does, he loves excelling. All of that spells "greatness" to me! I hope one day it will definitely spell "greatness" in IHA's case to you and all the naysayers as well.
chuck More than 1 year ago
Well said!!!!
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Thank you!
Edward Kelly More than 1 year ago
So you have the same old theory about the modern racehorse being weak. Just explain to me why a horse didn't win the Triple Crown between 1948 to 1973?
RailbirdPete More than 1 year ago
First comparison note...I'll Have Another sold for a very modest sum...Northern Dancer was considered too small and didn't make his $25K reserve set by E.P. Taylor.
RailbirdPete More than 1 year ago
Where's the Canadian comparison to racing star and breeding shed icon Northern Dancer's bid for the Triple Crown and Canadian owned I'll Have Another?? Let's give some press and recognition to your good friends up north !! We're all rooting for you guys Mr. Reddam !!
Paul Garcia More than 1 year ago
Good job, Pete. IHA has Northern Dancer in his pedigree.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
SO DOES UNION RAGS!!! NOT TO MENTION NIJINSKI II ON HIS DAM'S SIDE....
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
obvious UR didn't grow up from 2 to 3
akhiym james More than 1 year ago
My good friend Nicky, one of the best long distance trainers ever. I sure wish he did have something in the Belmont cus I surely would bet him since he has derailed triple crown attempts before. Nick sure knows how to train a horse to run all day and he will be back on the triple crown trail next year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nick's colt beat Big Brown as the longest horse on the board, wired the field and went the firs 6 fl in about 1:12. D'Tara. This was one day where all my friends called me after the race and asked me how I knew this horse would win and Big Brown would not wear the Crown. Racing is more than handicapping, breeding and numbers. I knew the connections were not going to go down in the books as Tri Crown winners. As much as I would like for Zito to have his wish, and it would be good for the game as it has had sooo much bad press, and the Cinderella jockey, 85 yr old agent, nice guy owner, brothers/trainers etc, the drought will go on this year, just as Bodie could not break the 2-year-old no race / no win jinx. The horse is willing, the jockey will get beat by the experienced jocks with Belmont oval size and experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
belmont day falls on my payday. i wish i could bet you a small amount just for fun and see what happen next. Triple or no Triple....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stay away from flat bets on the nose for 4-5 horses. IHA has odds of 4-5, not a price I would take bet on from my Saturday payday check. If you absolutely have a compunction to be win, run a .10 cent superfecta with the horse on top, take another and wheel the 2nd choice 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
I'm buying one ticket on IHA, to keep as a momento. I don't need to make money off of the Belmont, IHA has rewarded me beyond my wildest dreams so far. I will be betting other races to make money that day, if I feel the need to place any kind of bets for profit. The Belmont Stakes will be purely for pleasure for me this year. Good luck, I'll Have Another in winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown!!
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
i can promise you one thing. this race the jock means nothing ill have another will show everyone how good he is one more time and the jockey just needs to hold on
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kent D says the jockeys and the horses get lost in the Belmont Stakes. Belmont is the largest track in the world and its circumfrence is the same distance as this longest 3 year old race ~ a mile and a half. Check out some videos or movies of Secretariat running his Belmont. You will hear the owner and trainer questioning what Turcotte is doing to the horse in the race. I really, really like Mario, and hope that if he does get beat it will not be a relfection on him, rather the horse was not going to win that day. Past horse wisdom says IHA gets beat.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
It is the largest track in America, and the second largest in North America. It is not in the top 10 in Europe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This factor is for horse racing on dirt, not auto racing on grass. Horse racing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_racingCached - Similar You +1'd this publicly. Undo Belmont Park is part of the western edge of the Hempstead Plains. Its mile and a half main track is the largest dirt Thoroughbred race course in the world, and it ...
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Randwick in Australia is also 1 1/2 miles, albeit grass.
littlelouis99 More than 1 year ago
you haven't been paying attention to what's been going on the last few month's.go back to sleep anonymous,wake up after they've crowned iha and mario.are you beevis or but-head?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
little louis, You are so right, I have not been paying attention as to what's going on the last few months, but rather the last 34 years (last triple crown winner). As well as what's transpired for horses beat in the Bel. for a Crown since Affirmed won, by a nose. I'm enjoying this Triple Crown and will rest and go back to sleep after the horses cross the Belmont finish line. I also fret that if the Doug O'/milkshake Calif. hearing is not postponed and there are negative press reportings that we may see another Santos/Funny Cide/ sue Louisville Courrier newspaper fiasco.
Peggs Wathen More than 1 year ago
IHA is absolutely Push-Button.....he reminds me of Afleet Alex in that way.....he just runs around the Track, til the Jock asks him to RACE.....and he fires BIGTIME !!! He has yet to be OUTRUN(at 3) when the real Running/Racing starts, IN THE LANE !!! How can anyone deny him his due ??? How can anyone doubt him at this point of the yr ??? I hope-n-pray that he goes on to not only win the TC, but dominate the Fall Races too......the game needs not only a TC Winner, it needs GREATNESS to succeed !!! I thought Zenyatta was greatness, and she was til Smith mis-timed his BC move.....had Blame came back to run last yr, with the BC being at Churhill, you would've seen Greatness......I think(I hope) IHA is GREATNESS !!!
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Afleet Alex stopped quite badly in the Rebel, and inside the 1/16th pole in the Kentucky Derby. Mario automatically waits for the 3/8th pole before he asks I'll Have Another. With Mario, Afleet Alex probably would have won both the BC Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watch Afleet Alex video in Preak top of stretch. What would Mario do? This is a great colt but the jockey has tons to do with the outcome of a mile and a half race on a mile and a half track. Two turns. NYRA/Belmont jockey gang/colony will all have the target on Mario. Mario is not the underdog anymore.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
It was all Ramon Dominguez's fault. He was riding scared and cracked his colt Scrappy T left-handed around the final turn to float the favorite out wide, much like what Chantal Sutherland did on Game on Dude against Twirling Candy. It was a cheap move and the results were spectacular. Jeremy Rose claimed that Afleet Alex's nose hit the ground and it was the horse who was athletic enough to pick himself back up while keeping the rider. That's how he earned his nickname the plucky Afleet Alex. A smallish colt that never quite developed physically at two, and was sold for half of the original auction price as a 2yo in training. This was a horse who was always coming, fired every time except for one career start. Kind of sounds like I'll Have Another, but I think IHA is even better because he has the tactical speed to get an almost perfect trip every time.
John Nicoletti More than 1 year ago
Good luck Nick, with Dialed In, a very nice horse. Knowing Nick Zito, he will be back. With Zito, the horse comes first. Great trainer, and superb horseman.