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Zito Pair works for Belmont Stakes

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Robert V. LaPenta’s Brave Victory and Miner’s Escape breezed a half-mile in company on the main track at Belmont Park Thursday morning as they prepped for a start in the 141st running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6.

With Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito looking on, Brave Victory went four furlongs in 48.55, according to Equibase clockers, while Frederico Tesio winner Miner’s Escape went in 48.56 under jockey Jose Lezcano. Eddie Cruz was up on Brave Victory, third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan to Charitable Man at Belmont Park on May 9.

The works were the fourth- and fifth-fastest of 23 at the distance.

“Brave Victory is a better work horse than the other horse,” said Zito, who has named Rajiv Maragh to ride in the Belmont. “Brave Victory has always been an exceptional work horse. Miner’s Escape has never been a good work horse, ever, but that’s OK.

“I told Jose that [Miner’s Escape] is kind of quirky, mentally. Most Mineshafts are. They could be tough to train, but we’re willing to take the time with them. And it looks to me like [Brave Victory] will go the distance.”

Zito, who won the 1½-mile Belmont in 2004 with Birdstone and in 2008 with Da’ Tara, also owned by LaPenta, has saddled a total of 20 horses in the race. He has finished second six times and third three times, including Anak Nakal’s dead-heat for third last year.

“We’ve done well in the Belmont, been consistent, so why not,” he said. “I don’t have Secretariat with these two, but I don’t have to. You never know. Mine That Bird is definitely the horse to beat, no one can say he’s not. Anyway, there will be a lot of birds.”

Miner’s Escape and Brave Victory, a son of Lion Heart, could be joined in the Belmont by another Zito horse, Nowhere to Hide, who was 17th in the Kentucky Derby.

Also possible for the Belmont are Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Mine That Bird, Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, Charitable Man, Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk, Flying Private, Luv Gov, Mr. Hot Stuff and Summer Bird.

The 141st running of the Belmont Stakes (race 11, 6:27 p.m.) will headline a 13-race live card on Saturday, June 6 that begins with a first-race post of 11:35 a.m. Parking fields open 8:15 a.m. and admission gates open at 8:30 a.m. Admission is $10 for grandstand and $20 for clubhouse. General parking is $10; there is no valet parking on Belmont Stakes Day.

Coolers are permitted at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day; however, no alcohol or glass containers will be allowed.

ESPN will provide coverage of Belmont Stakes Day from noon to 5 p.m., immediately followed by ABC-TV’s two-hour live coverage.

In addition to the “Test of the Champion,” Belmont Stakes Day will feature five other graded stakes races. A $1 million guaranteed all-stakes Pick 6 begins at 2:33 p.m. on race 6, the Grade 2, $250,000 True North Handicap for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs. Race 7 (3:16 p.m.) will be the Grade 1, $400,000 Just A Game for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at a mile on the turf; followed by the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn for three-year-old fillies at a mile (4:01 p.m.) and the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens for three-year-olds at seven furlongs.

The days biggest races are also the last two legs of a $1 million guaranteed all-stakes Pick 4 that will begin with the Acorn. Race 10 (5:34 p.m.) will be the Grade 1, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap for three-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter on the turf; and the Belmont Stakes will be race 11 (6:27 p.m.).

There will be a $1 million guaranteed Pick 6 on races 6-11 and a $1 million guaranteed Pick 4 on races 8-11. The 13th and final race of the day will go to post at 7:45 p.m.

Check out BelmontStakes.com for updated news and information.


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