Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone set to return in the Travers.

Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone set to return in the Travers.

Mike Corrado

Zito: Birdstone Will Train Up to Travers Stakes

Marylou Whitney's Birdstone, who denied Smarty Jones the Triple Crown with his victory in the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), will make his first start back in the $1-million Travers Stakes (gr. I), trainer Nick Zito said July 23.

Zito has stated since the Belmont he would not run Birdstone in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), because the 1 1/8-mile race is only three weeks before the Travers, and he is afraid the colt would "run his guts out," in the prep. Being Birdstone is such a small, lightly made colt, it would be difficult for him to bounce back in such a short period of time.

Though there is an allowance race opening day at Saratoga for 3-year-olds and up, Zito has decided to pass it and wait for the Travers. Birdstone, by Grindstone, has had only one work since the Belmont, a :50 3/5 half-mile breeze, which is a sharp work over the deep Oklahoma training track.

"There are no easy allowance races at Saratoga, and I'm afraid he'd still have to run too hard in that race," Zito said. "The only shot I have of getting him to the Travers is to train him up to the race. So, we'll just have to wait it out and get him in that cycle and try to pull it off. There's nothing else I can do; those are the cards that were dealt me.

"He has run some of his best races off layoffs, and he has shown he's a freak of physical fitness. He proved that in the Belmont."

Whitney's husband, John Hendrickson, has no reservations about Zito's course of action. "He's the best trainer in the world," he said.