Updated on 09/15/2011 12:21PM

A P Valentine tunes up in 59.35


ELMONT N.Y. - Trainer Nick Zito believes his home-track advantage will be the key to his bid to win Saturday's 133rd running of the Belmont Stakes.

Tuesday morning Zito's A P Valentine strengthened that opinion with a quick, yet easy five-furlong workout on Belmont Park's main track.

A P Valentine, coming off a second-place finish in the Preakness Stakes, took to the track at approximately 7:00 a.m. under exercise rider Jamie Sanders and rattled off fractions of :23.58, and :35.28 on his way to a five-furlong clocking in :59.35 breezing.

Visually, A P Valentine appeared to be going very easily with little urging, and was not fully extended until being asked to finish strongly.

"The big horse went good," said Zito. "He didn't go down there like a maniac or anything. There was no urging, no driving, no company, no whip. He did it by himself and went easy.

"I wanted him to go like he went last week, and that's

what he did," said Zito in reference to A P Valentine's five-furlong workout in :59.30 on May 29.

A P Valentine is one of only three Belmont horses to have raced on the track, and his two wins at Belmont make him the only horse in the field with a win here. The son of 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy won both a maiden race and the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont last fall before finishing last in the

Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Speaking from his stable at barn #12 on the Belmont backstretch, Zito pointed out that Belmont is his and A P Valentine's home turf.

"This is home for him and he's happy here," said Zito. "He's comfortable here. He's 2-for-2 here. He likes Belmont. He's really happy."

In addition to confidence in his own horse, Zito also acknowledged the strength of this year's Belmont field. "There's a lot of good horses in there, and it's going to be a good race."

A P Valentine, along with Monarchos, Point Given, and Dollar Bill, is one of four horses in this year's Belmont who will be racing in all three Triple Crown events.

"There are fresh horses in the Belmont, as you'd say, but you have to wonder how much strength and courage A P Valentine has," said Zito. "The Triple Crown takes a lot out of a horse. After Saturday he gets a good long rest. He deserves it."

Fresh Thunder Blitz reunites with Bailey

Thunder Blitz, who has been training well and looking great since his fourth-place Kentucky Derby finish, according to trainer Joe Orseno, was out for a gallop on the Belmont training track after the break Tuesday morning. Thunder Blitz had been scheduled to accompany female turf champion Perfect Sting to the track earlier in the morning, but had to go out with a later set after he required an adjustment to a hind shoe that had lost a nail and become loose. Aside from that minor setback, the morning went off without a hitch.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do and he did it the right way," said Orseno. "With any luck, he's a horse that could have been second to Monarchos [in the Derby]. Monarchos just ran a huge race that day."

Along with Balto Star and Kentucky Derby runner-up Invisible Ink, Thunder Blitz skipped the Preakness, giving him five weeks between races coming into the Belmont.

"The five weeks has helped him," said Orseno. "He's put on 40 pounds, and he's filled out. The five weeks was good for him."

Orseno hopes Thunder Blitz does not become involved in the Belmont as early as he did in the Derby when he moved up to within three lengths of the lead at the mile before flattening out in the stretch.

Orseno wants Thunder Blitz 7-12 lengths off the lead in the Belmont, and, with Jerry Bailey, he thinks he has the rider to get his horse to relax.

"Bailey was open for the Belmont. How do you keep him in the jock's room?" Orseno said. "He won the Preakness and two Breeders' Cup races for us last year."

Even after the Belmont, Bailey figures to continue to get plenty of work from Orseno and owner Frank Stronach. Both Red Bullet (Preakness winner) and Macho Uno (Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner) are scheduled to arrive back at Orseno's Belmont stable from Ocala, Fla. on June 21.

Wednesday a busy travel day

By late afternoon Wednesday, all nine Belmont contenders should be on the grounds at Belmont Park. Point Given, Dollar Bill, and Buckle Down Ben are all scheduled to arrive on a flight from Kentucky Wednesday morning. The final arrival will be Dr Greenfield, who will get to Belmont later in the day after clearing a 36-hour quarantine in Newburgh, N.Y., where he has been since arriving from England late Monday night.

The Belmont Stakes post position draw will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Unlike the post selection lottery put on by Churchill Downs and Pimlico, Belmont will use a traditional post draw process for Saturday's 1 1/2-mile "Test of a Champion."