Belmont Weekend Stakes (Continued)

Continued from part 1

Great Return

By the afternoon of June 10 the mainstream glow at beautiful Belmont had long since departed, but when did a race like the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) - -- even at the reduced distance of nine furlongs - -- ever need more than its own awe-inspiring history and the presence of a genuine star?

Nick Zito's return with Albert the Great to the site of his historic 3-year-old run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) last October was timed to offer the Triple Crown-adoring horseman a little consolation for another second-place Belmont Stakes finish, but more meaningfully afforded the emotional trainer a glance ahead to a Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) date over the home track his colt adores.

"There's just something about these horses, Albert and A P Valentine," gushed Zito. "You know, we've got two wonderful horses and our goal is to get them ready for the Breeders' Cup right here."

With his arm around Jorge Chavez nearing the grandstand tunnel after Albert the Great's facile 3 1/4-length gallop in the Brooklyn, Zito gently spun Albert's rider back toward the infield for the big screen replay of the race. Watching the Go for Gin colt's victory, a sojourn exuding an economy of motion in the 4-year-old's stride and unmitigated confidence of both horse and rider, Zito spoke gently to Chavez.

"What a great race he ran. No matter how you look at it, he did it easily carrying 122 pounds," he said.

Albert the Great's six challengers for the Brooklyn trophy included the popular New York-bred Gander, whose long, confident strides remind one of a Belmont affinity comparable to the highweight's, and international Godolphin player State Shinto, a magnificently turned out son of Pleasant Colony making his stateside debut. The race would be all Albert's.

Guided off the rail by Chavez, he quickly commanded an honest pace of :23.65 and :46.54, easily shook off the earnest challenges of Top Official and Perfect Cat, then glided home with little urging. With Cordero-like peaks behind, first under his left shoulder and then his right, Chavez signaled this year's Brooklyn was in the books with a smooth nine furlongs in 1:47.41. Perfect Cat finished a commendable second.