Trainer Nick Zito is hoping for a little payback when his colt Most Distinguished takes on Sir Five Star, conditioned by former assistant Jamie Sanders, in the $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga on Monday.
On Belmont Stakes Day in June, Zito notes Most Distinguished was surging for the lead in the stretch of the Woody Stephens (gr. II), but the Sanders traineee Teuflesburg came along the inside to win by two lengths.
“It was the pupil defeating the teacher,” Zito said. “I still was happy for her. She’s got a nice horse.”
The six-furlong Amsterdam is a lead-in to the $250,000 King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the Travers card Aug. 25. It drew a field of nine.
Last year, in her first full year of training, Sanders made an impression during the first week of Saratoga by taking a chance with Teuflesburg. A maiden who was purchased by Gary Logsdon for $9,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October sale, the colt had the lead late in the stretch before Scat Daddy caught him in the last strides to win the Sanford (gr. II) by a neck.
Sanders, 41, will take another chance on Monday when she runs 20-1 shot Sir Five Star for owner Gus King in the Amsterdam.
“She’s got a lot of guts,” Zito said of Sanders. “She doesn’t worry about percentages. She worries about winning the big races. I give her a lot of credit for that.”
King and Sanders decided to give Sir Five Star a chance against older sprinters in the True North Handicap (gr. II) last month at Belmont Park. After losing contact with the field early in the race, Sir Five Star made a mild rally past Keyed Entry and Bordonaro to finish fifth, beaten just over three lengths by Will He Shine.
Sanders brought Sir Five Star to Monmouth Park for the Jersey Shore Stakes (gr. III), where he again finished fifth chasing a track-record performance from Idiot Proof.
“He’s the type of horse that, if you barely take a hold of him, he will rate; but he can sometimes overrate himself. He can take himself out of the race,” Sanders said. “When I saw him in the stretch of the True North, I thought he had a chance. In the Jersey Shore. He was up against a really nice horse.”
Most Distinguished, 2-1 on the morning line, comes into the Amsterdam with a class advantage. After Most Distinguished finally won his first career race, Zito ran him against eventual Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Street Sense and eventual Dwyer (gr. II) winner Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), where he finished fourth.
Most Distinguished bounced back with a 41/4-length victory at a mile over a sloppy track and a second-place finish in the Woody Stephens. In 11 career races, with the exception of his finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, Most Distinguished as always finished among the top three.
“He’s a consistent horse,” Zito said. “He’s got the breeding in him. He’s got a nice temperament. (Owner) Ms. (Charlotte) Weber thinks it’s a good idea to keep him sprinting. There’s no question he can run a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, but he’s a pretty good sprinter, too.
"As long as Jamie doesn’t have Tueflesburg going into the race, I’m in good shape.”
$150,000 Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:47 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Roman's Run (KY), 117, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Holy Canyon (KY), 115, Jean-Luc Samyn
3. Starbase (FL), 115, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. Elite Squadron (KY), 115, Calvin H. Borel
5. Out of Gwedda (KY), 119, Kent J. Desormeaux
6. Sir Five Star (KY), 121, John R. Velazquez
7. Americanus (KY), 115, Eibar Coa
8. Most Distinguished (KY), 115, Rafael Bejarano
9. Forty Grams (KY), 121, Edgar S. Prado