(Edited Monmouth Park report)
Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Summer Bird rolled into the Monmouth Park stable area at 5:30 the morning of July 3 and settled into his stall in Barn 3 as he prepares for his next start, the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) on Sunday, Aug. 2.
Trainer Tim Ice, looking sleepy after the long road trip from Louisiana Downs that included a stopover at Churchill Downs, said the Birdstone colt had handled the trip well.
“Better than I did,” Ice said with a grin. “I’m tired, but he got off the van full of himself at Churchill, and he was full of himself when we got here. He shipped great. I just want to take a nap.”
Summer Bird and his trainer left Louisiana at 9 p.m. Wednesday night and arrived in Louisville at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning. They pulled out of Kentucky at 5 p.m. Thursday evening, and arrived at Monmouth at 5:30 Friday morning.
This was the second long road trip for Summer Bird, who made a similar van trip from Louisiana to New York when he came in early to prepare for the Belmont Stakes, a race he won by nearly three lengths over Dunkirk.
Ice said that Summer Bird will get a feel for the Monmouth track on Saturday.
“He’ll be out on the track to train on Saturday and Sunday (July 4-5),” the trainer said, “and if everything’s okay with him, he’ll work on Monday (July 6). He’s due for a work. After that, I’ll get him on a Sunday work rotation. I like to work him a week before a race, and the Haskell is on a Sunday, so that will be his work day after this week.”
Summer Bird had his first work since the June 6 Belmont at Louisiana Downs last Saturday, breezing five furlongs in a leisurely 1:04.20
Ice also brought a 4-year-old named Independence War to run in allowance races at Monmouth, and says he is bringing in a pair of 2-year-olds to keep him busy in the time preceding the Haskell.
Another Haskell candidate, Papa Clem , also came in early, but the colt will run in next Saturday’s $175,000 Long Branch Stakes, Monmouth’s major prep for the Haskell. The race is also expected to draw Atomic Rain.
Summer Bird, a Birdstone colt bred by his owners, the Drs. K.K. and V. Devi Jayaraman, debuted at Oaklawn Park on March 1, and ran fourth. He broke his maiden on March 19, and then ran a strong third in Papa Clem's win in the April 11 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and was sent to Churchill Downs where he finished sixth behind Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Ice, based at Louisiana Downs near Shreveport, La., brought the colt home for two weeks and then shipped him to Belmont three weeks before the final Triple Crown event. With Kent Desormeaux replacing Chris Rosier in the saddle, Summer Bird won convincingly in the Belmont Stakes.
Desormeaux will try to make it two Haskell victories in a row this year, after winning the race last year aboard Big Brown.
Summer Bird is bedded down in Barn 3 with the horses trained by John Mazza, who has had stalls in that barn for the past 42 years, and has hosted a number of famous runners.