Zito Gearing Up For Second-Half Assault

Zito Gearing Up For Second-Half Assault
Photo: Rick Samuels
Nick Zito
Nick Zito has been busy recently trying to come up with a schedule for his talented arsenal of 3-year-olds. Even with the loss of Eurosilver, Zito is loaded as he sets his sights on a number of major stakes, beginning with the July 11 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.

Zito could possibly run two in the Dwyer, including Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner The Cliff's Edge, who has apparently recovered from his bruised foot. "He's doing great," Zito said. "He breezed Saturday and he was his old self; he had that old zip. I guess we're gonna have to run him in the Dwyer, and I think I'm gonna put some reassurance in there and run (Derby Trial winner) Sir Shackleton as well. I think he's a good horse and that's a good spot for him, too. If the race comes up like the Tampa Bay race (Sam F. Davis Stakes), maybe we won't go home empty-handed this time."

Zito said he's going to have to "tip-toe" carefully with Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Birdstone, because the son of Grindstone likes to have his races spaced apart, and the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) is only three weeks before the $1 million Travers (gr. I), which is the colt's main goal this summer.

In 1996, Zito brought Preakness (gr. I) winner Louis Quatorze back in the Jim Dandy after a grueling Triple Crown campaign, and the colt scored a gut-wrenching victory, missing the the track record by a fifth of a second. He then finished a close second in the Travers to Will's Way, the colt he had defeated in the Jim Dandy. Will's Way had not competed in any of the Triple Crown races.

"Birdstone is the type of horse who will run his eyeballs out first time back, and he won't come back in three weeks; he just won't do it," Zito said. "He doesn't have the size, that's all there is to it. He's got the biggest heart on the racetrack, but if I do something like that it just wouldn't be fair to the horse. So, I'm gonna have to figure something out. If I can't find a race for him at least four weeks before the Travers, don't be surprised if I can get him up to the Travers on training. He's that kind of horse.

"We've been putting him in the sand pen, and Maxine (Correa) has been riding him on the trails at Saratoga," Zito said. "(Monday) morning, she said she was feeling so good he leaped in the air, and she thought she was coming off. So, obviously, he's made a good recovery."

Zito said he may also take a shot at Smarty Jones at his his home track in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). "The fact that there is going to be a small field, we'll run somebody in there, maybe Royal Assault. I don't think I'm gonna go myself, though, unless I get assurance from the Philadelphia police," he said with a laugh.

Zito said Royal Assault, winner of the Sir Barton Stakes, probably would run first in either the Jim Dandy or Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I), another race in which he could meet up with Smarty Jones.

"One good thing about my owners is that they all understand my job is to find the best spots for the horses," Zito said. "Wayne Lukas told me years ago, you put the best players on the field and that's the way it's supposed to be. You can't leave someone out in the cold. You can't keep one away from the other if they're both suited for the same race."

Despite his ups and downs this winter and spring, Zito still has managed to win four graded 3-year-old stakes with four different horses, for three different owners. He also was beaten a head in the Swale Stakes (gr. II) with Eurosilver before the colt was taken away from him by Buckram Oak Farm.

Zito also will be represented by two horses in today's 1 1/16-mile Floor Show Stakes at Delaware Park when he sends out Pies Prospect and Broadway View against Lane's End (gr. II) winner Sinister G and Zakocity.

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