Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cool move: Ice Box to skip Preakness

Industry sources are reporting that Ice Box, runner-up to Super Saver on Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, will not line up for a second shot at the Calvin Borel-piloted colt when he takes the next step toward Borel's brash Triple Crown prediction in the May 15 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Smart move. If I were Nick Zito, who trains Ice Box, I'd do the same, even if the horse came out of the Derby cool and composed.

There could be several reasons why even a fit and icepick-sharp Ice Box shouldn't ship to Pimlico, but only one really matters.

He's going to win the Belmont Stakes instead.

Now, I'm hardly "going all Calvin" in that statement. And yes, maybe Ice Box doesn't run in that race, either. But if he's going to freeze out a Super Saver Triple Crown bid (provided somebody else doesn't do it a week from Saturday, which is entirely possible), Ice Box's best bet is the Belmont.

I'm not sold on the "front-runners win the Preakness; closers don't" poppycock. That might once have been true, but over the past couple of decades the race has been won by horses from any- and everywhere in the field at the first and second calls -- maybe least of all by the race's early leader. (I'd have to check, and won't at the moment take the time. But Andrew Beyer did that legwork at some point in the past.)

Still, at 9 1/2 furlongs instead of 10, a closing Ice Box might get the door slammed on him just before the wire again.

That won't be the case at the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes. Super Saver has a shot to get that distance, particularly with Belmont-winner A.P. Indy as his broodmare sire. But Ice Box is a grandson of A.P. Indy on his sire's side (via Pulpit), out of a mare by Belmont-winner Tabasco Cat -- a mare named Spice Island who twice won (on grass) in stakes company at a mile and a half herself. So if anybody still on the Triple Crown trail is bred to get the Belmont distance, it's Ice Box.

And Zito should have him right, especially with the extra two weeks of prep; two weeks Super Saver won't have. Remember Zito's boy Birdstone? Smarty Jones does.

Ice Box was closing fast on Super Saver in the final strides of a Derby run in sorta glacial time.

On June 5 in the Belmont Stakes, Ice Box down the stretch should be like a snowball rollin' downhill.

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