06/11/2009 11:00PM

Commentator cruises at Belmont


ELMONT, N.Y. - As they shoot for a rare third victory in the prestigious Whitney Handicap in two months, trainer Nick Zito and his 8-year-old New York-bred gelding Commentator got a confidence boost Friday at Belmont Park.

Assuming command right out of the gate, Commentator rolled to a seven-length victory in the $66,250 Kashatreya Stakes over a muddy main track. Stud Muffin finished second, a length ahead of Joe Corrigan. Though he figured to whip up on New York-breds - he is now 6 for 6 against statebred competition - Commentator did come home the final half-mile in 46.71 seconds with only mild urging from jockey John Velazquez. Commentator, owned by Tracy Farmer, covered the mile in 1:35.65 and returned $2.40 as the 1-5 favorite.

There was a minus-place pool of $44,157 in the race, and there was no show wagering offered. Of the $258,941 in the place pool, $233,629 was wagered on Commentator.

Commentator won for the first time since last September's Massachusetts Handicap. He was making his first start since finishing fourth in the Charles Town Classic on April 18. He went into that three-turn race without a prep.

"This is what he needed," Zito said. "You got to get confidence built on these horses; you just can't keep throwing them to the wolves. The Charles Town thing was big, we tried it and it's not our style but he rebounded. He was like his old self. New York-bred or no New York-bred he was still Commentator today."

Commentator got away on a clear lead through an opening quarter in 24.75 seconds, a half-mile in 48.94, and three-quarters in 1:12.17 before coming home the last quarter in 23.48.

"He did everything really good, just in a gallop," Velazquez said. "When they came to him, he got into the bridle, I smooched to him a little bit at the quarter pole, moved my hands a little bit just to make him do something, and he went away from the group."

Commentator is now 14 for 23 and has won a stakes race in six consecutive years. He won the Whitney in 2005 and 2008 and will seek to win it for a third time on Aug. 8. Only Discovery (1934, 1935, and 1936) and Kelso (1961, 1963, and 1965) have won three Whitneys. Zito said he wouldn't rule out trying to squeeze another race into Commentator before the Whitney.

"If we could squeeze one in that's a hundred percent okay, we'll do it, if not we'll just wait," Zito said.

Velazquez heading to Royal Ascot

It is doubtful Velazquez will have as easy a time next week in England as he did on Friday aboard Commentator. Velazquez will be riding at Royal Ascot for the second time in his career, having done so in 2000. The Royal Ascot meet runs Tuesday through Friday.

"It was a great experience, but I didn't get to win a race," Velazquez said when asked about his previous trip to Royal Ascot.

Velazquez hopes to right that wrong when he returns to Royal Ascot to ride a bevy of horses for trainer Wesley Ward. Velazquez will ride the 4-year-old Cannonball in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee on Thursday. as well as five 2-year-olds in various races for Ward.

He also has hopes of getting on a horse for trainer Aidan O'Brien though as of Friday he had not secured a mount.

Among the 2-year-olds Velazquez will ride for Ward is Aegean, a daughter of Northern Afleet who is 2 for 2, including a victory over the boys in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on April 30. She is running in the Group 3 Albany Stakes on Wednesday.

Velazquez will ride Jealous Again in Wednesday's Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. He rode Jealous Again to an 11 1/4-length debut victory at Keeneland on April 3.

"She was very, very fast," Velazquez said.

The big question is whether these 2-year-olds will take to the grass as all of Royal Ascots races are conducted on turf.

By the Light staying for stakes

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. entered his New York-bred filly By the Light in two spots Sunday, but has decided to keep her home to run in the $65,000 What a Summer Stakes at Belmont. Dutrow also entered her in the $50,000 Susan B. Anthony at Finger Lakes, restricted to New York-breds.

"I don't see nothing in there to scare me up to Finger Lakes," Dutrow said of the What a Summer in which By the Light could be favored.

Dutrow has managed By the Light superbly throughout her 16-race career. A New York-bred daughter of Malibu Moon, By the Light has won 10 of 16 starts with 3 seconds, a third, and 2 fourths. She has won nine listed or restricted stakes.

By the Light figures to work out a perfect stalking trip under Edgar Prado from post 4 in the What a Summer at six furlongs.

Other contenders include Distorted Passion and Rising Fever.

Mr. Fantasy to miss Mike Lee

Mr. Fantasy, who scratched out of the Metropolitan Handicap due to a fever, is still not doing well and will now be forced to miss next Sunday's Mike Lee Handicap, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

"He's not moving right," McLaughlin said. "He's going to get some time off, so he won't be running in the Mike Lee."

Mr. Fantasy has won 3 of 4 starts, including the Grade 3 Withers.

* Brother Bird, a 2-year-old half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, had his first official breeze Thursday at Saratoga. A son of Yonaguska, Brother Bird went three furlongs in 37.22 seconds. Brother Bird, owned by Dogwood Stable and Paul Saylor, is trained by Todd Pletcher.