Nick Zito: trained recent Belmont Stakes winners Birdstone and Da' TaraPICTURE: Edward Whitaker/racingpostpix.com
Fly Down enhances Belmont claims in Dwyer
Report: USA, Saturday
Belmont Park, Dwyer Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f dirt 3yo
TRAINER Nick Zito strengthened his hand for the Belmont Stakes on June 5 when his Fly Down (Jose Lezcano) ran away with the Dwyer by six lengths as 3-5 favourite Drosselmeyer finished a trouble-free second.
Zito, who has ended the dreams of Triple Crown hopefuls Smarty Jones and Big Brown in recent years with Belmont Stakes winners Birdstone and D'a Tara, will also have Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box for the final Classic of the season.
Lezcano kept Fly Down, sent away the 7-2 second choice, well off the early pace set first by Turf Melody then by Carnivore. He came widest of all at the top of the straight and quickly opened an advantage that grew by the stride.
Kent Desormeaux, aboard Drosselmeyer, split horses at the top of the straight from fifth of seven, but was never a match for the winner.
The victory was the third in five starts for Fly Down, who broke his duck over 1m½f at Churchill Downs last autumn and then won over 1m1f at Gulfstream Park on his seasonal debut before finishing ninth, beaten less than seven lengths, in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on a day when closers had no chance.
Also on Saturday
Hollywood Park, Mervyn LeRoy Hcap (Grade 2) 1m½f, AW, 4yo+
Rail Trip (Ron Ellis/Rafael Bejarano), sent away the 1-2 favourite for his first start in eight months, indicated that he is still a force to be reckoned with among the top older horses in California, if not further afield in the US, when beating Sangaree by more than three lengths.
Rail Trip boasts the Hollywood Gold Cup among his victories and will have that as a major taget again this year.
"He was just worn out and foot-sore," trainer Ron Ellis said of his horse's long absense.
"He had a long year. I gave him 60 days off, but he never left the barn."
Jockey Rafael Bejarano said: "I knew I had a lot of horse at the end. I think this horse is going to be the best around."