05/22/2009 11:00PM

Summer Bird getting used to surface

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Summer Bird worked in a moderate time Saturday, but trainer Tim Ice said he thought it was "a better work than what he had going into the Derby."

ELMONT, N.Y. - When Tim Ice received his trainer's license 13 months ago, the powers that be evidently forget to issue him the horsemen's handbook on standard expressions and excuses.

Thus, after Summer Bird worked seven furlongs in a moderate 1:26.40 Saturday morning over Belmont Park's main track, Ice did not issue the mundane "It was just what we wanted" line. Instead, Ice was refreshingly candid when he said that he felt Summer Bird "didn't look 100 percent comfortable" over the sandy Belmont surface.

That doesn't mean Ice plans to put Summer Bird on a van and head back to Louisiana Downs. It just means Ice plans to take full advantage of the fact he shipped Summer Bird here three weeks in advance of the $1 million Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, to be run here June 6.

"I expect him to be a little uncertain about his footing, it's only natural when you change surfaces," said Ice. "Overall, he's coming along good; each day he's getting better with it. I think this was a better work than what he had going into the Derby, so I'm not in any way disappointed at all. He came back, he looks good. He's not blowing real hard."

Ice also plans to take advantage of using a locally based rider. Saturday afternoon, Ice confirmed that Kent Desormeaux would ride Summer Bird in the Belmont, replacing the previously announced Joe Talamo. Chris Rosier had ridden Summer Bird in his previous four starts.

"We just wanted somebody that was familiar with Belmont," Ice said.

Summer Bird was one of three Belmont Stakes contenders who worked on a gorgeous spring morning. Charitable Man, the Peter Pan winner trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, went four furlongs in 47.85 seconds, while Dunkirk, the Florida Derby runner-up trained by Todd Pletcher, went five furlongs in 1:00.72.

In just his fourth career start, Summer Bird finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, 13 lengths behind Mine That Bird while forced to rally widest of all in the stretch. Ice was pleased with his colt's performance and picked the Belmont as his next start.

After working the horse at Louisiana Downs on May 15, Ice put Summer Bird on a van that, after a stop at Churchill Downs, got his horse here on Tuesday. Summer Bird galloped three days before breezing on Saturday.

With Desormeaux in Texas on Saturday, Ice tabbed Edgar Prado to work Summer Bird following the renovation break. Summer Bird had a pretty good run-up to the seven-furlong pole and he clicked off fractions of 12.41 seconds, 24.59, 36.47, 48.54, and he got to the quarter pole in 1:00.75. Prado began urging him in the stretch, but Summer Bird only came home his final quarter in 25.65 seconds. He galloped out the mile in 1:41.04.

"I asked Edgar if he felt like he wasn't getting a hold of it and he said 'Yeah, he was kind of spinning his wheels a little bit,' " Ice said. "That was the only thing that I saw negative; just unsure of the track."

After a walk-day Sunday and a planned 1 1/2-mile jog on Monday, Summer Bird will resume galloping Tuesday with a planned five-furlong drill for next Saturday with Desormeaux up.

"I think being here three weeks before, he'll get used to the surface and he'll handle everything good," said Ice, who will turn 35 on Belmont Day. "We're not going to make any excuses. We got to run over the same track everybody else does and whether they've been here or not we'll be here for three weeks. He'll either get used to it or he won't, but I think three weeks is plenty of time for him."

Charitable Man in quick drill

With two graded stakes victories over the track, Charitable Man may have the home-field advantage in the Belmont. He was plenty eager to get back on it Saturday morning, working four furlongs in 47.85 seconds after going 22.97 seconds for his opening quarter. Exercise rider Renzo Morales was in the irons, and did not ask Charitable Man at any point in the breeze.

"He went off a little quick but he was not asked to go off, he just did it," said McLaughlin, who won the 2006 Belmont with Jazil. "He's just training very well; he always works well."

Charitable Man, who won the Peter Pan by 3 3/4 lengths in his last start, figures to be a pace factor in the Belmont. At this stage, Miner's Escape looks like the only other speed horse in the field.

"He'll be forwardly placed - depends on who's in there how forward we are," McLaughlin said.

Dunkirk in typical breeze

With a chance of thunderstorms Saturday night and Sunday, Pletcher moved Dunkirk's work up from Monday. In what has been a fairly typical move, Dunkirk, with Angel Cordero Jr. up, went five furlongs in 1:00.72 in company with Munnings, the Champagne runner-up who is being pointed to the Woody Stephens, a Grade 2, seven-furlong race on the Belmont undercard.

"It was good," said Pletcher. "He did it well in hand, seems like he likes the track. I'm pleased with him. He actually got ahead of Munnings at the three-eighths pole and kind of stayed a length ahead of him all the way down the lane."

* Edgar Prado will ride Mr. Hot Stuff in the Belmont Stakes, trainer Eoin Harty said Saturday. Mr. Hot Stuff finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby with John Velazquez, who will ride Dunkirk in the Belmont. Mr. Hot Stuff is training at Keeneland, where he is scheduled to work on Tuesday. Prado has won the Belmont with Birdstone and Sarava.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman