NEW YORK - For a change, Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has the favorite for the $1 million Belmont Stakes.
A two-time Belmont winner with long shots Birdstone in 2004 and Da' Tara in 2008, Zito has two of the three top choices for Saturday's final leg of the Triple Crown: Ice Box is the 3-1 morning-line choice and his other starter Fly Down is the 9-2 third choice.
A field of 12 was entered Wednesday for a Belmont that will be run without Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver or Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky.
Florida Derby winner Ice Box staged a sensational rally to finish second in the Derby despite a trouble trip, and Fly Down was a six-length winner in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont last month.
"Nick's going to be tough to beat," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will try with 10-1 choice Uptowncharlybrown.
Preakness runner-up First Dude is the 7-2 second choice, and trainer Dale Romans believes his big colt is ready for a breakout performance.
"Ice Box is going to be tough, especially in this race, but maybe we can turn the tables," Romans said.
Zito has sent out 22 Belmont starters and only once had the favorite - 1991 Derby winner Strike the Gold, who finished second to Hansel at odds of 2-1.
His two Belmont wins spoiled Triple Crown attempts, with Birdstone beating Smarty Jones at odds of 36-1 and Da' Tara winning over Big Brown at odds of 38-1.
Ice Box will leave from the No. 6 post and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano, with Fly Down and John Velazquez just inside at No. 5. First Dude, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, drew the No. 11 post.
First Dude was still running strong as he crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length behind Lookin At Lucky, and Romans says the longer Belmont distance is a perfect fit for his colt.
"After the Preakness, we said he wants to go a mile-and-a-half," Romans said. "And he'll love this track."
Here is the field for Saturday's 142d Belmont Stakes at a distance of 11/2 miles. Purse: $1 million. Post time: 6:32 p.m. TV: 6ABC, 5 p.m.
1. Dave in Dixie. . . Sadler Borel 20-1
2. Spangled Star. . . Dutrow Gomez 30-1
3. Uptowncharlybrown McLaughlin Maragh 10-1
4. Make Music for Me. . . Barba Rosario 10-1
5. Fly Down. . . Zito Velazquez 9-2
6. Ice Box. . . Zito Lezcano 3-1
7. Drosselmeyer Mott Smith 12-1
8. Game On Dude. . . Baffert M. Garcia 10-1
9. Stately Victor. . . Maker A.Garcia 15-1
10. Stay Put. . . Margolis Theriot 20-1
11. First Dude Romans Dominguez 7-2
12. Interactif Pletcher Castellano 12-1