Derby Watch (2/12/04): Zito Pair Tops Early List

Derby Watch (2/12/04): Zito Pair Tops Early List
Photo: Garry Jones
Trainer Nick Zito tops Derby Watch with Eurosilver and Birdstone.
Two 3-year-olds trained by Nick Zito top the list of leading contenders for this year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) in the first installment of Derby Watch, by Steve Haskin, senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse.

Click on names of highlighted horses for more information

1 -- Eurosilver/Nick Zito/Unbridled's Song-Russian Tango, by Nijinsky II
Zito couldn't have asked for more from his 3-year-old debut, despite the lack of quality competition. Went in off only a pair of slow five-furlong breezes, but ran like a fit horse. Had to battle briefly turning for home, but showed a good burst of speed to draw off to emphatic victory.

2 -- Birdstone/Nick Zito/Grindstone-Dear Birdie, by Storm Bird
Scheduled to make 3-year-old debut in Gulfstream allowance race Feb. 14, and a big effort likely will move him to head of the pack. Should face some tough foes, but this looks like a good spot for him. Late foal, and not a big horse, so Zito doesn't want to throw him in with the heavy hitters just yet.

3 -- Action This Day/Dick Mandella/Kris S.-Najecam, by Trempolino
Lost little in fourth-place finish in Sham. Tough coming back at 1 1/8 miles, and the pace was a bit slower than he would have liked. Also was giving winner seven pounds. Made a big move on the turn, lost a lot of ground, and closed well, but stopped gaining in the final sixteenth. All in all, a good prep. Only negative is his apparent need for a quick pace; still has to prove he can overcome slower fractions.

4 -- St Averil/Rafael Becerra/Saint Ballado-Avie's Fancy, by Lord Avie
May be the most solid Derby horse to have raced this year. Santa Catalina form received big boost when Master David and Preachinatthebar came back to finish first and third, respectively in the Sham. This colt is bred to run all day and there is no reason to think he won't keep improving.

5 -- Master David/Bobby Frankel/Grand Slam-Nadra, by Sadler's Wells
Typical European-type grinder who gets stronger the farther he goes. Looked like he was finished in the Sham, but came back after being hit right-handed, and was striding out beautifully at the end. With Solis hitting him 22 times in the stretch, it indicates he needs a wake-up call to get the most out of him. Just a little guy, but a very efficient mover.

6 -- Lion Heart/Patrick Biancone/Tale of the Cat-Satin Sunrise, by Mr. Leader
Has had two works, latest being a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 1/5. He may be the most talented and brilliant colt of the bunch, but having only two starts scheduled before the Derby is bothersome, especially with one of them only a mile. Can Biancone get him ready to go 1 1/4 miles?

7 -- Second Of June/Bill Cesare/Louis Quatorze-Whow, by Spectacular Bid
This colt simply is amazing. Despite all he's accomplished so early, being a June 2 foal, he just keeps bouncing back for more. Turned in his second mile work since the Holy Bull, going in 1:41 3/5 at Calder. Tough as nails; just keeps shrugging things off and moving forward.

8 -- Mustanfar/Kiaran McLaughlin/Unbridled-Manwah, by Lyphard
Taking a shot with this colt, based on his allowance victory at Gulfstream and a distance pedigree to die for. Liked the way he bore down on the leaders and was relentless through the stretch, coming home his final sixteenth in sharp :06 1/5. Time was four-fifths faster than the second division, which looked like a stronger race on paper. Beautiful moving colt who has never missed a day's training.

9--Tapit/Michael Dickinson/Pulpit-Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled
Problematic shin and bad weather forced him to miss Feb. 15 Risen Star Stakes, and he has been returned to Tapeta Farm, where he has been only cantering. If he makes Derby he'd have only two starts, and combined with only two starts last year, his chore is now much tougher.

10 -- Borrego/Beau Greely/El Prado-Sweet as Honey, by Strike the Gold
Looks like he's officially a dirt horse after excellent effort in the Sham Stakes, in which he may have moved too soon. Big, good-looking chestnut appeared to have put Master David away but let him come back on the rail. Hung tough for second, holding off closing charges of Preachinatthebar and Action This Day. Can only see this colt getting better.

Most Popular Stories