Updated on 06/10/2011 2:09PM

Belmont Stakes: Brilliant Speed gets one more chance on dirt

Barbara D. Livingston
Brilliant Speed put in his final major work for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. -- For Brilliant Speed, the Kentucky Derby was a make or break race. Run well, and he would get another chance on dirt. Run poorly, and perhaps it would time to permanently affix a label on him of being a turf or synthetic surface specialist.

“I was hopefully optimistic,” his trainer, Tom Albertrani, said Tuesday morning at Belmont Park.

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Brilliant Speed, who had won the Blue Grass Stakes on Polytrack in his final Derby prep race, acquitted himself admirably in the Derby, finishing seventh of 19, but only two noses away from fifth, and only 5 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Animal Kingdom. So, he is being given a second chance in the Triple Crown. After skipping the Preakness Stakes, Brilliant Speed will try again against Animal Kingdom, and six other horses who ran in the Derby, in the Belmont Stakes here on Saturday.

“We saw enough in the Derby that we decided to target the Belmont and give him another shot,” said Albertrani, who trains Brilliant Speed for the Live Oak Plantation of Charlotte Weber. “If he hadn’t run well in that race, we’d have had to look at other options, like going back to turf. Hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised again.”

On Tuesday, in his final tune-up for the Belmont, Brilliant Speed was timed by Daily Racing Form working a half-mile in 50.59 seconds at Belmont Park. Dan Blacker, Albertrani’s top assistant trainer, was aboard.

Brilliant Speed was one of two Belmont horses to work on Tuesday. At Sagamore Farm in Maryland, the longshot Monzon went a half-mile in 48.40 seconds.

Though there was little activity on the track here Tuesday, several horses arrived for the race, including Prime Cut and Santiva, who flew in from Kentucky, and Master of Hounds, who shipped in from Ireland. Master of Hounds is temporarily at Aqueduct, where he is undergoing mandated United States Department of Agriculture quarantine, and he will get to train on the Belmont main track beginning on Thursday.

Brilliant Speed, a son of Dynaformer, went steadily throughout his drill. He went the first furlong in 13.08 seconds, a quarter-mile in 25.59, came home in 25 flat for his final quarter-mile, then went out an extra furlong in 1:03.46.

“With his pedigree, and the way he closed in the Derby, I’m optimistic that he’ll run well in here,” Albertrani said.

In the Derby, Brilliant Speed was 14th as the field came under the wire the first time. He was forced wide on the final turn, but continued on resolutely to the finish.

“Things just weren’t in our favor,” Albertrani said. “He was a little further behind than perhaps he should have been. On the backside, he was only two lengths behind Animal Kingdom. But Animal Kingdom found a hole inside, and we went outside. I thought he could have been a couple of lengths closer. Maybe we could have been fourth or fifth with a little better trip. But I like that he was finishing. Being beaten 5 1/2 lengths was no disgrace.”

Joel Rosario, who rode Brilliant Speed in the Blue Grass and the Derby, has the Belmont mount.

Monzon will be making his Triple Crown debut in the Belmont. Most recently sixth in the Peter Pan Stakes in his first start in three months, Monzon’s half-mile time on Tuesday was the best of four horses who worked at the Sagamore Farm of his owner, Kevin Plank.

“He worked really good. He came home in 1:01 and 2,” Nacho Correas, 51, a native of Argentina who trains Monzon, said by telephone. “He’s doing really good. You cannot expect him to do any better. I don’t know if that’s enough, but I could not be more happy.”

Monzon will travel by van from Sagamore to Belmont Park early Saturday morning. Correas said Monzon came to Aqueduct the morning of his win in the Count Fleet Stakes in January. Besides Master of Hounds, the only other horse not yet on the grounds is Ruler On Ice, who will be sent here by van from Monmouth Park on Saturday morning.

Temperatures began to climb noticeably on Tuesday. It was in the upper 80s on Tuesday, and Weather.com predicted high temperatures in the mid-90s for Wednesday and Thursday. Thunderstorms late in the week will offer a break from the heat. The high temperature for Saturday is predicted to be 71 degrees, but there is a 50-percent chance of rain.

– additional reporting by David Grening