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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Go For Gin Is Belmont Pick

ELMONT, New York -- Nick Zito has so much admiration for the way Go For Gin has endured the grueling Triple Crown series this spring that the trainer referred to his horse as "a New York knight in shining armor." The 3-year-old colt drew the rail and was made the 9-5 favorite Thursday when a seven-horse field was entered for the 126th running of the Belmont Stakes, the final race in the series of spring 3 year-old classics, being run Saturday at Belmont Park. In addition to Go For Gin, the Belmont lineup includes Preakness winner Tabasco Cat; a pair of colts, Strodes Creek and Brocco, who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby, but skipped the Preakness; and three long shots, Amathos, Signal Tap and Ulises, a speed horse. Zito does not think Ulises will be much of a factor, even if he runs hard against Go For Gin early. "I get the feeling this race is going to be like the Preakness," Zito said. "Tabasco Cat is going to be the horse to beat." Go For Gin and Tabasco Cat, Zito said, "are going to go out there and leave the rest of the field behind." The seven-horse field is the smallest since six horses started in 1988, the year Risen Star won the race. If all seven horses start, the purse will be $658,800, about $30,000 fewer than the Preakness and lowest of this year's Triple Crown races. The Derby had the highest purse, at $878,800. Go For Gin, which won the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago in the slop as a 9-1 shot, was subsequently the 2-1 favorite in the Preakness, but lost by three-quarters of a length to Tabasco Cat. Zito said he is amazed how well Go For Gin has handled the stress of the Triple Crown. "He is surprisingly high," Zito said. "I work in the stall with him, so I know exactly how he is feeling. I'm very surprised at the way he has held up. He has been going since last November without a stop. But he is fit and sharp. This is a gritty horse." On Sunday, Go for Gin worked six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 4/5 seconds under jockey Chris McCarron. "It was a sensational work," Zito said. "I had been concentrating on building his wind and stamina up through long, slow gallops, so that work indicates just how sharp he is." Belmont oddsmaker Don LaPlace sees the Belmont as essentially a four-horse race, bunching Go For Gin with 5-2 second choice Strodes Creek, and Tabasco Cat and Brocco as co-third picks at 3-1. Then there is a big gap to Amathos at 15-1, Signal Tap at 20-1 and Ulises, the last-place Derby finisher, at 30-1. By drawing the rail, Go For Gin, a front-runner, is expected immediately to show his heels to the rest of the field, pressed early by Ulises, who is expected to fade. "The rail is OK," Zito said. "There are only seven horses. My horse breaks good, and Chris should be able to get him out of there and out of trouble. He is a horse that likes to be 1-2 and likes to mix it up." Go For Gin would have been the lone speed horse, except for the last-minute addition of Ulises, the colt owned by Robert Perez, who has a history of running long shots in Triple Crown races. "Bob is a terrific guy," Zito said. "But who knows why he does these things? The greatest psychiatrist in the world couldn't talk Robert Perez into doing anything. But this is America. He puts up his money and he runs his horse."