John Velazquez has been tabbed by trainer Nick Zito to ride Fly Down in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 5, the Hall of Fame trainer told Daily Racing Form on Tuesday morning. Coming off a decisive six-length victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on May 8, Fly Down figures to be among the top three betting choices in the Belmont along with stablemate Ice Box, the Kentucky Derby runner-up; and First Dude, the Preakness runner-up.
"Belmont Park, John Velazquez, Nick Zito, we've had good luck together," Zito, who trains Fly Down for owner Richard Pell, said from Saratoga. "Plus, I've known Johnny since he was 18. I had a lot of good jockeys wanting to ride this horse, but I went with the New York jockey."
Velazquez rode Fly Down to a third-place finish in his debut last October at Belmont.
Fly Down had been ridden by Jose Lezcano in the Dwyer. Lezcano is the regular rider of Ice Box, aboard whom he won the Florida Derby and who he will ride in the Belmont.
Zito is a two-time Belmont Stakes winning trainer, having won it in 2004 with Birdstone, ridden by Edgar Prado, and 2008 with Da' Tara, ridden by Alan Garcia.
Velazquez won the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard the filly Rags to Riches and finished second in the race last year aboard Dunkirk.
The only horse Velazquez rode for Zito in the Belmont Stakes was Pinpoint, who finished last in 2005.