(Edited Belmont Park notes)
With the recent spell of wet weather having finally moved on, three contenders for the 141st running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) turned in their final serious moves this morning at Belmont Park in preparation for the June 6 race.
Under bright, sunny skies, Robert V. LaPenta’s pair of Brave Victory and Miner's Escape worked in tandem after the break under jockey Rajiv Maragh and exercise rider Eddie Cruz, respectively, going a half-mile in :48.66 over the fast main track. The time was the fifth-fastest of 14 at the distance.
Also after the break, Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman’s Summer Bird went five furlongs under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, with New York Racing Association clockers catching him in 1:01.89, the fifth-fastest of nine moves at the distance.
“I was very happy with everything,” said Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito of Brave Victory, who will be ridden by Maragh in the Belmont, and Miner’s Escape, who will have Jose Lezcano up. “I wanted them to go even. They both went great, and they’re ready to go.”
Brave Victory, third in the May 20 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont, and Miner’s Escape, winner of the Frederico Tesio at Pimlico May 9, represent the 21st and 22nd Belmont starters saddled by Zito, a two-time winner of the race with Birdstone (2004) and Da’ Tara (2008).
Zito said there remained a slight possibility My Meadowview Farm’s Nowhere to Hide, 17th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in his last start, would mark the trainer’s 23rd starter in the Belmont.
“He’s up at Saratoga,” said Zito. “He’ll work either Sunday or Monday, but right now, I’m leaning against it.”
Desormeaux said he was delighted with the way Summer Bird, like Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird a son of Birdstone , went the morning of May 30.
“He breezed brilliantly,” said Desormeaux, who is 0-for-6 in the Belmont. “I think what impressed me the most about Summer Bird was his energy level. He came off the track happier than he went out, which is a great indication of a healthy, happy horse, as well as a fast one.”
Although he was aboard Summer Bird for the first time, Desormeaux and fellow Louisianan Tim Ice, the colt’s trainer, go back a long way.
“This is a little closer to home than most people realize,” said Desormeaux. “For me, this is a house horse! Tim worked shoulder-to-shoulder with my brother (trainer Keith Desormeaux) and I am thrilled to have the mount for him. It would be a real family occasion.”