Trainer Tim Ice will scale new heights, literally, when he visits the Empire State Building for the first time June 2.
Figuratively, Ice, the conditioner of Summer Bird, hopes to reach the zenith of his burgeoning training career in the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 6.
Ice, 34, began training last summer at Louisiana Downs. Earlier this year, he found himself in the enviable position of conditioning a starter for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr.I), Summer Bird. Summer Bird, like Derby winner Mine That Bird, is a son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone.
Summer Bird, owned and bred by Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman, finished sixth in the Derby after making a seven-wide run coming into the stretch. Ice skipped the Preakness and brought Summer Bird to Belmont Park May 19 to get the colt acquainted with the facility’s surface, which is often referred to as “big sandy” for its deepness and tiring effect on some horses.
Ice, a first-time Big Apple visitor, is delighted that he brought Summer Bird to New York early, because the colt didn’t handle the surface as glibly as he had hoped. So Ice equipped his Belmont starter with toe grabs behind, which should give Summer Bird better traction. With the toe grabs on, Summer Bird worked briskly at Belmont Park May 30, covering five furlongs in 1:01.67.
Also new to the Summer Bird mix will be jockey Kent Desormeaux, whose brother and trainer, Keith, once was Ice’s boss. And there is an equipment change of blinkers on for Summer Bird in the Belmont.
“I think my horse fits in there well,” Ice said. “I think the mile and a half will suit him. With a little cleaner trip (than the Derby)–not so wide–I think my horse is going to be right there.”
Ice added that he believes the rider switch from Chris Rosier to Desormeaux, who has considerable experience riding at Belmont Park, is a positive.
“I think it is a big plus,” Ice said. “Kent is a Hall of Fame jockey and he worked him for the first time Saturday, and it looked like they got along real well. With Kent knowing this racetrack, I think it will help Summer Bird a lot.”
First things first, however. The New York Racing Association has arranged for Ice and jockey Rajiv Maragh, who will ride Brave Victory in the Belmont Stakes, to be part of a photo-op at the Empire State Building June 2. Except for a trip to a Chinatown restaurant on the evening of May 31 with Kent Desormeaux and the rider’s agent, Mike Sellitto, Ice has never set foot in New York City.
“I’m sure I will look like one of the tourists down there for the first time,” the affable Ice said outside barn 12A, where Chocolate Candy is in residence. “It will be exciting.
“I’m enjoying every minute (of being in New York),” he added. “It’s a big race and I am just trying to get Summer Bird ready the best that I can. Hopefully, he will run as well as he looks.”