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Belmont Stakes 2012: Zito pulling for Triple Crown bid
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.”
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.
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..
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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 !!
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.
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.
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.
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