08/16/2009 12:00AM

Summer Bird's work raises questions

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Barbara D. Livingston
Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird works five furlongs under Kent Desormeaux at Saratoga on Saturday in preparation for the Travers.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - If you would have assessed Summer Bird's chances of winning the Belmont Stakes based on his first workout over Belmont Park's main track, you would have rated them slim. Of course, two weeks later, Summer Bird rallied through the Belmont Park stretch to win the Belmont at 11-1.

If you assess Summer Bird's chances to win the $1 million Travers Stakes here on Aug. 29 based on how he worked Saturday, you also wouldn't rate them very high. But, with two more weeks and one more work to go, Summer Bird has time to win the skeptics over.

In his first workout over Saratoga's main track Saturday, Summer Bird went five furlongs in 1:01.84 under regular rider Kent Desormeaux. After an unorthodox warm-up session, Summer Bird, working three paths off the rail, went his opening quarter in 24.88 seconds, three furlongs in 36.88 seconds, and got his last quarter in 24.96 seconds with Desormeaux taking the colt in hand inside the eighth pole. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.75.

While both Desormeaux and trainer Tim Ice said the work went well, Ice believes the best is yet to come.

"His first work at each track has always been subpar," Ice said. "The second work is usually much better than the first."

Still, Ice was heartened by the comments of Desormeaux, who told him that "this is the horse that I won the Belmont on."

Ice has maintained that Summer Bird has been training as well here as he did at Belmont and Monmouth, where he finished second to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational.

Those who have observed Summer Bird training here in the morning have noted that he doesn't move with flawless fluidity, especially in behind.

"That's the way he goes. I've watched him since January - he's not going to impress everybody by how he moves," Ice said. "If they were watching him since January they may have a whole different view. He shows up in the afternoon."

Before Saturday's work, Desormeaux galloped Summer Bird about three-quarters of a mile before slowing him down to a jog in upper stretch. Desormeaux jogged him to the finish line where he stood briefly before breaking off into a gallop again and then into his work.

"He enjoys a warm-up. It's possibly why he enjoyed the mile and a half - the further he goes the better he gets," Desormeaux said. "He gets much more fluid with a warm-up, so I wanted him to have a good work today, so I warmed him up well."

Gayego returns in allowance

Gayego, the 2008 Arkansas Derby winner, will make his 2009 North American debut in a classified allowance race here Monday at six furlongs. Gayego was purchased by Godolphin Stable at the end of his 3-year-old season and has made two starts in Dubai, including a victory in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal Stakes on March 5.

Following that, he finished second to stablemate Two Step Salsa in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on March 28, but has not raced since.

Rick Mettee, the assistant trainer who oversees Godolphin's New York string, said it took a little while for Gayego to acclimate once he arrived here from Dubai in late April. Then he injured the bottom part of his foot, known as the frog, which sidelined him for a little while.

Mettee said Gayego could have been pointed to the Grade 1 Forego at the end of the meet, but Godolphin already has Pyro for that race and Darley Stable, also owned by Sheikh Mohammed, has Past the Point to run.

Gayego has run well on synthetic surfaces in the past, which could make him a candidate for a Breeders' Cup race in November.

"The big question is where he's going to run after this," Mettee said. "Do you run him at Belmont or do you send him to California off this?"

Gayego has shown good speed in his races and he may have to deal with some early pressure from Americanrevolution and/or Digger.

In other Godolphin news, Mettee said Cocoa Beach, who won the De La Rose Stakes here on Aug. 5 by a neck, will likely make her next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa Handicap on Aug. 29. Initially, it appeared as though Cocoa Beach was going to wait for the Noble Damsel at Belmont on Sept. 19.

"She's too fresh, and too well, and we didn't feel she could wait for the Noble Damsel," Mettee said. "It looks like she's going to improve with races like she did last year."

On Saturday, Cocoa Beach worked four furlongs in 48.97 seconds over Saratoga's main track.

Smooth Air has bruised foot

Smooth Air, who finished last as the favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 8, has a bruised left front foot, trainer Chad Brown said Saturday.

Brown said he noticed the problem earlier in the week when he tried to take Smooth Air back to the track for training. The horse had jogged two days earlier.

"I don't know if it was coming on or what," Brown said. "I know all it took was a couple of days of jogging to find something. He's sore enough in his foot that he's confined to his stall."

Brother Bird third in debut

Brother Bird, a 2-year-old half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, finished third, beaten 5 1/4 lengths in his debut on Saturday. He was beaten by Liston, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Country Star, who scored a front-running victory over Chief Counsel.

Brother Bird, a son of Yonaguska, raced in fourth position and three wide down the backside under Ramon Dominguez. He made a three-wide bid and drew within three-quarters of a length of Liston at the quarter pole. But turning for home, Liston spurted away and Brother Bird just ran evenly down the lane.

"We thought it was an encouraging effort," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Brother Bird for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable. "He did everything right, put himself in a good position. There were quality horses in there and he held his own very well."

ThoroFan Corner allows special access

Fans who sign up to join ThoroFan, a non-profit Thoroughbred racing fan association, can get special access for morning workouts at Saratoga's main track.

ThoroFan spectators can gain access to the track as early as 5:30 a.m. and watch horses train at the ThoroFan corner located near the sixteenth pole. Membership to ThoroFan is $25 and more information is available at .