Trainer Nick Zito has a barn loaded with potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and four of those 3-year-olds made impressive moves this weekend.
Most encouraging was the 3-year-old debut of Robert LaPenta's Cool Coal Man, winner of a second-level allowance event at Gulfstream Jan. 26. The Mineshaft colt came off a rank performance and resulting last-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs Nov. 24, and was much more professional in his first race of the year under John Velazquez. After stalking the pace on the inside, he swung three wide at the quarter pole to wear down Marty Wolfson trainee Golden Spikes. Favored in the 1 1/8-mile event, he covered the distance in 1:51.02 and returned $5.
This was a really good race,” Zito said. “We’ll certainly look at (the Fountain of Youth). There are a lot of options. Maybe he’s a Florida Derby (gr. I) horse. We had things develop like this before. Hopefully this time it will work out.”
“He had to deliver. Racing on the rail helped him today. He lost his gait a little bit at one point when he got pressed, but that actually worked out. He had to find a way out and he got the timing right. He got too hot in Kentucky (in his last race). We ran him back a little quick and he got worked up in the paddock. With his breeding by Mineshaft, he’s a hot horse. He’s got a lot of fire, and when you have a horse like that, you can’t run them back too quick.”
Earlier in the day, Robert LaPenta's undefeated War Pass, winner of the Eclipse Award for top 2-year-old colt in 2007, was back on track after missing a work last week due to a mild bout of colic. The Cherokee Run colt breezed a half-mile in an official time of :48.80 at Palm Meadows under regular rider Maxine Correra. Zito was pleased with the work and told The Daily Racing Form he is looking for a mile-long race at Gulfstream in three weeks for War Pass.
Also on Jan. 26, Zito sent LaPenta's Coal Play to a blistering half-mile work in :46.46 over the Palm Meadows surface. Runner-up in the What a Pleasure Stakes at Calder in his last start as a 2-year-old, Coal Play is coming off an uninspiring seventh-place finish in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) over a sloppy track at Gulfstream Jan. 5.
Working the same distance and registering the same time as War Pass was Anak Nakal, owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, Lightly-raced with only three starts as a 2-year-old under his belt, the Victory Gallop colt has not raced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club - the same race in which Cool Coal Man finished last - at Churchill Downs.