Nick Zito found another major contender for next month’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I), as Richard Pell’s Fly Down demolished six 3-year-old rivals in the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) May 8 at Belmont Park.
Under the handling of Jose Lezcano, Fly Down made his winning four-wide move rounding the turn, took over at the top of the lane, and drew clear for a resounding six-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Dwyer, which was run around one turn. It was the first stakes win for the lightly-raced son of Mineshaft, who entered the race off a disappointing ninth-place effort in the March 27 Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
The Dwyer this year replaced the Peter Pan Stakes as the local prep for the June 5 Belmont Stakes, and with the victory Fly Down gave Zito a solid one-two punch in the third leg of the Triple Crown. Zito also is pointing Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) runner-up Ice Box to the race.
“We’ll see what happens in the next 30 days," Zito said. "He (Fly Down) puts a lot into his races. If he has a good month, if he rebounds from this, if he’s OK, we’ll look at the Belmont.”
Fly Down, an $80,000 purchase at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale, is out of the Fly So Free mare Queen Randi. The chestnut colt was bred in Kentucky by Broadway Thoroughbreds and Will Farish.
In the Dwyer, Fly Down was last in the early stages as Carnivore and Turf Melody took the field through moderate splits of :23.98 and :47.70 while racing into a stiff wind through the backstretch. Soaring Empire and Remand were also up close, while 3-5 favorite Drosselmeyer tracked the pacesetters farther back. Codoy was never a factor.
Carnivore, racing under Ramon Dominguez, continued to lead through six furlongs in 1:13.18, but Fly Down was advancing steadily to his outside and took over coming off the turn. Fly Down had a commanding 4 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole and continued to extend his lead in the final furlong. Drosselmeyer took over second under Kent Desormeaux, but was no threat to the winner, who stopped the clock in 1:50.25 over a fast track.
Drosselmeyer, who was third in the Louisiana Derby, was 1 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Remand. Soaring Empire was fourth.
“He didn’t break that badly, but he didn’t break that well," Lezcano said of Fly Down. "He stumbled a couple of times, but after that he grabbed the bit and sat behind horses, just waiting. When I asked, he gave me everything he had. He’s going to be a good horse.”
Fly Down improved to 3-0-1 from five starts. He broke his maiden last fall at Churchill Downs going two turns, then captured a nine-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park in February. He has now earned $182,070.
“We’ve always given him a nice break between races," Pell said. "Nick has always been high on this horse. Nick has told me from the very beginning, ‘He’s a Belmont horse’ and he didn’t just mean Belmont Park, he meant the Belmont Stakes. The horse has always handled himself like a pro. I thought he would run well today and that this track would suit him, but he really was impressive.”
The winner, sent off as the second choice, paid $9.20, $3.20, and $2.60. The exacta (7-2) returned $20.60 and the trifecta (7-2-5) was $62.50.
Drosselmeyer trainer Bill Mott said his colt was hampered somewhat by a poor break.
“It was OK," Mott said of the effort. "He slipped behind when they first broke, but he finished up and galloped out well. I wouldn’t think (this would affect our Belmont Stakes plans), but I still have to talk to the rest of the team."