05/26/2010 11:00PM

Dave in Dixie pushes Belmont field to 11

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Barbara D. Livingston
Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel will ride Dave in Dixie in the Belmont.

The Belmont Stakes is one better. It now goes to 11.

Dave in Dixie, based in Southern California with trainer John Sadler, has joined the cast for the final leg of the Triple Crown on June 5 at Belmont Park, Sadler announced on Thursday after Dave in Dixie worked one mile in 1:39.60 at Hollywood Park.

Calvin Borel will have the mount, Sadler said.

Dave in Dixie has not raced since a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 3 in his first start on dirt. His connections have always held him in high regard, though. In his best effort in three starts this year, Dave in Dixie was a fast-finishing second behind Caracortado in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 13.

Sadler had Line of David and Sidney's Candy in the Kentucky Derby. He was scheduled to run Hurricane Ike, the Derby Trial winner, in the Preakness, but he was found to be injured the day entries were taken and was withdrawn.

"Hope I make it this time," Sadler said.

Dave in Dixie brings the prospective Belmont field to 11. He will travel to New York next week. Dave in Dixie will come into the 1 1/2-mile race with the longest layoff, nine weeks, of any of the runners.

Two other Belmont runners worked on Thursday. Ice Box, the Derby runner-up, worked a swift half-mile in 46.65 seconds on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga for trainer Nick Zito. The longshot Spangled Star worked five furlongs in 1:01.46 at Aqueduct in company with stablemate D'Funnybone for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.

Five times in the last seven years, the Belmont has been won by a horse who ran the first weekend in May at Churchill Downs, then had five weeks off coming into the Belmont. It is a strategy Zito used successfully with Birdstone in 2004, and he believes a similar schedule gives Ice Box his best chance at success in the Belmont.

Ice Box apparently has benefitted by awaiting the Belmont, based on his brilliantly fast drill on Thursday morning over a surface that does not usually yield fast times. Ice Box's work was the fastest of 22 at the distance.

"He's doing very, very well," Zito said from his Saratoga barn. "Basically it was a duplicate of his work before the Derby at Churchill Downs. I'm very happy."

At Churchill Downs, Ice Box breezed a half-mile in 46.40 seconds eight days before the Derby. He then turned in a terrific effort, rallying to finish second while encountering more trouble than British Petroleum has gotten into lately. Immediately after the race, Zito and owner Robert LaPenta debated whether to come back in the Preakness, or await the Belmont.

"It's only natural to think of the Preakness, and it would be tremendous to run in that race, but it would not have been the right thing to get him ready for the Belmont," said Zito, who ran Jackson Bend, a colt co-owned by LaPenta, in the Preakness. "I think he's done very well. If he had run in the Preakness, I don't think he'd have finished as strong in his work as he did today."

Ice Box was credited by Saratoga clockers with a quarter-mile split of 23.20 seconds, and a five-furlong gallop-out time of 1:01.05. With exercise rider Maxine Correa aboard, Ice Box worked in company with stablemate Dark Cove. He began about five lengths behind, and finished about three in front.

Zito, a two-time winner of the Belmont, also will send out Fly Down, who won the Dwyer Stakes and figures to be no worse than the third choice in the betting. There's the strong possibility that Zito will have the top two betting choices in the race.

The ranks of Belmont contenders on the grounds at Belmont Park grew by two on Thursday when Stately Victor and Stay Put arrived following a flight from Kentucky.

- additional reporting by David Grening