Updated on 09/16/2011 7:31AM

Now it's finger-crossing time

Dana Barnes takes War Emblem through his final Belmont workout Tuesday at Churchill Downs. The colt was scheduled to travel north Wednesday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The hardest work is finished. War Emblem passed his final workout for the Belmont Stakes with flying colors Tuesday at Churchill Downs, allowing trainer Bob Baffert to let out a proverbial sigh of relief. Now he and the rest of the sporting world turn their attention to Saturday at Belmont Park, where War Emblem will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in 24 years.

On a hot, humid morning, War Emblem breezed five furlongs under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes in 1:01. With fractions of 12.20, 24.20, 36.40, and 48.20 seconds, the drill was exactly what has come to be expected of War Emblem since The Thoroughbred Corp. purchased him in April: steady, energetic, uneventful, highly professional.

"Perfect," said Baffert, as he caught the colt galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60.

The workout put the finishing touches on what has been an extremely satisfactory two-plus weeks of resting and reloading for War Emblem. After the colt won the May 18 Preakness, which followed by two weeks his victory in the Kentucky Derby, Baffert shipped the colt back to Churchill, where the mission was to prepare the colt for the Belmont in a quiet but resolute manner.

"Once they cross the wire in the Preakness, you say, 'Oh, boy, here we go,' " said Baffert. "A lot of things can go wrong in this business. You just keep your fingers crossed."

The finger-crossing apparently has worked, for there seems to be little question that War Emblem has thrived at Churchill. He had an equally sharp five-furlong breeze here the Tuesday before, which was his first serious work since the Preakness. Through it all, he has gone about his training like a horse serious about putting himself in the record books by becoming just the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.

"Now all we've got to do is keep him cooled off the rest of the day, then get him on the plane in the morning," Baffert said.

Early Wednesday morning, War Emblem was scheduled to be flown to New York with several other Louisville-based horses. The charter flight was scheduled to leave Louisville at about 8 a.m. Eastern, with arrival at the Belmont stable gate scheduled for about 11:30. Among the horses accompanying War Emblem will be three other Belmont starters: Proud Citizen, Perfect Drift, and Wiseman's Ferry.

In watching the Tuesday work, Baffert was joined on the Churchill frontside by about two dozen people, including five cameramen and reporters from such faraway locales as New York and Los Angeles. In a post-work interview, Baffert again repeated the familiar lines that have echoed since War Emblem won the Derby: That he feels lucky to have the horse, that the horse is an exceptional talent, that fate will determine whether they will be winners Saturday.

"I just hope the horse shows up and runs his race," he said. "If he runs his race and gets beat, he gets beat. I keep saying, 'If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.' "

Baffert said he would be on hand for the Belmont post-position draw, which was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the track. "We need to draw a decent hole," he said, before pausing and adding, "Although I don't know what hole I want."

With War Emblem's speed, he said, it probably doesn't matter much. "He's fast, so he can keep himself out of trouble," he said.

Eleven other 3-year-olds were expected to enter Wednesday against War Emblem in the 134th Belmont, which will be televised live on NBC on a 90-minute show that begins at 5 p.m. Post time is about 6:08.

The weather forecast for Saturday in New York calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 82.

In other Belmont developments Tuesday:

On a humid morning at Belmont Park, Essence of Dubai and Sarava each put in their final workouts in preparation for Saturday's race.

Essence of Dubai, the ninth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, went out shortly after 6:30 a.m. and went an easy five furlongs in 1:03.97 under exercise rider Lee Roebuck. Belmont clockers caught Essence of Dubai in fractions of 26.80 and 40.20 seconds, meaning he got his last quarter in 23.77 seconds. The final time was the second slowest of 17 works at the distance.

"He's been training well since he's been here. We can't fault the way he's been training," said Tom Albertrani, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He's a little more focused here than he was in Kentucky."

While Essence of Dubai has worn blinkers in all seven of his starts, it wasn't until after the Derby that he began training in them on a daily basis. Albertrani said Essence of Dubai has been easier to train here than he was in Kentucky, when he was constantly bucking and kicking.

Sarava 'a grinder'

Following the renovation break, Sir Barton Stakes winner Sarava worked four furlongs in 48.66 seconds with jockey Heberto Castillo Jr. up, subbing for regular rider Edgar Prado, who was with his family in Maryland.

Sarava appeared to get over the ground comfortably with Castillo nudging on him only moderately through the stretch.

"He's a grinder, a horse that keeps coming in his works," trainer Ken McPeek said. `"Heberto said he felt great."

* Like a Hero, the Alydar Stakes winner, returned to the track for a light jog Tuesday, two days after he breezed four furlongs in 49.05 at Belmont.

* Jennifer Leigh-Pedersen will be listed at Artax Too's trainer of record in Saturday's program.

- additional reporting by David Grening

Belmont contenders

Twelve horses are being considered for Saturday's Belmont Stakes:

HorseJockeyTrainerLast start
Artax TooJ. SantosJ. Leigh-Pedersen1st, Bel. alw.
Essence of DubaiJ. BaileyS. bin Suroo9th, Ky. Derby
Like A HeroPat DayC. B. Greely1st, Alydar S.
Magic WeisnerR. MiglioreN. Alberts2nd, Preakness
Medaglia d'OroK. DesormeauxB. Frankel8th, Preakness
Perfect DriftE. DelahoussayeM. Johnson3rd, Ky. Derby
Proud CitizenM. SmithD. W. Lukas3rd, Preakness
PuzzlementJ.-L. SamynH. A. Jerkens2nd, Peter Pan
SaravaE. PradoK. McPeek1st, Sir Barton
Sunday BreakG. StevensN. Drysdale1st, Peter Pan
War EmblemV. EspinozaB. Baffert1st, Preakness
Wiseman's FerryJ. ChavezN. O'Callaghan1st, Lone Star Derby