Look for Birdstone in Classic, Zito Says

Look for Birdstone in Classic, Zito Says
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Nick Zito(l), with John Hendrickson and Mary Lou Whitney after Birdstone's win in the Travers, says Classic is next stop for Belmont winner.
(from Saratoga track notes)
Birdstone's 2 1/2-length win Saturday in the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga, coupled with the colt's upset of Smarty Jones in the Belmont (gr. I), opens up the race for this year's 3-year-old championship, at least in the minds of some.

Hoping a strong showing in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) might be enough to overtake Smarty Jones in the balloting, trainer Nick Zito said Sunday morning that Birdstone owners Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson would like a shot at the Oct. 30 event at Lone Star Park in Texas.

"(They) said this morning they'd like to go right to the Classic," Zito said. "If he's gonna fire his best shot, might as we'll go for four million dollars.

Zito said Birdstone would likely train toward the Classic without a prep race.

"If he runs a good Breeders' Cup, he should be three-year-old champion because it's older horses. I've told everyone enough times that this horse needs time between races, so what else can I say, other than we showed you.

"Birdstone trains himself and I've got to give the horse a lot of credit for firing his best shot. He came out of the race good. We're all very happy."

Though Birdstone figures to sit out Belmont Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on Oct. 2, Zito may still have a major player in the race with The Cliff's Edge.

The Cliff's Edge put in a serious bid for the lead in the final quarter mile of the Travers, but could not keep up with Birdstone in the stretch. The Cliff's Edge, however, was well clear of third-place finisher Eddington at the wire.

"Cliff's okay," Zito said. "His feet stung him a little bit, but other than that he's fine. We'll take a good look at the Jockey Club Gold Cup with him."

Zito said, Sir Shackleton, the last of his three Travers starters, bled. Sir Shackleton finished fifth.

"It was a humid day," Zito said. "Things like that happen. I'll talk to his owners before we make any plans with him."

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