Zito Thrilled by Birdstone's Churchill Work
Date Posted: 4/15/2004 9:03:09 PM
Last Updated: 4/17/2004 2:20:54 PM

Marylou Whitney Stable's Birdstone, who was scratched from last week's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, resumed serious preparation for Kentucky Derby 130 (gr. I) May 1 with a five-furlong workout on Thursday at Churchill Downs.

The Nick Zito-trained son of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone covered five furlongs over a "fast" track in 1:01 in his first move over the track since his arrival under the Twin Spires on Tuesday. The work was inadvertently omitted from the track's daily workout tab.

"He worked sensational," said Zito. "I'm very, very happy with everything."

Birdstone, who was regarded as one of the nation's finest 2-year-olds in a 2003 campaign that climaxed with a win in the Champagne (gr. I) at Belmont Park, was scratched from the Toyota Blue Grass after tests revealed an elevated white blood cell count. The homebred colt had opened his 3-year-old season with an easy allowance win at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 14, but followed that with a dull fifth-place finish behind longshot Sinister G in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park.

The colt's Thursday training move tied as the 11th fastest of 46 at the distance. Zito said Churchill Downs clockers caught Birdstone in fractional times of :12 4/5; :25; :36 4/5 and :49 1/5. He said Birdstone galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.

Birdstone is one of two contenders for Derby 130 trained by Zito, who won the race in 1991 with Strike the Gold and 1994 with Go for Gin. Zito also trains Robert La Penta's The Cliff's Edge, who won the Toyota Blue Grass.

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