Belmont Roundup Continued

Continued from part 1

Valentine's Day
"He's a freak, a freak! Best horse I've ever trained, period." As Nick Zito made his way down to the track following A P Valentine's victory in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I), he kept shouting whatever words of praise came to his head.

The day the son of A.P. Indy arrived at the barn, Zito told his help that this colt was special. Zito has no intention of watching next year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on TV, as he did this year, and this good-looking colt was his ticket to Louisville. When stabled at Saratoga, the $475,000 yearling purchase remained under the watchful eye of assistant Frank Allen. In New York, he was kept under close scrutiny by assistants Nick Galati and Tim Poole.

When he broke his maiden in brilliant fashion on Sept. 23, Zito couldn't help but get carried away. "I normally never talk like this, but this colt is so good it's scary," he said. Zito compares him with all his best horses when they were three. "He reminds me so much of Stephen Got Even, but he's more advanced...more advanced!" he said, his voice rising to gravel-like crescendo.

In the paddock before the Champagne, John Nerud, one of the most astute judges of horseflesh in the country, took one look at A P Valentine and went straight to the windows to up his $2 bet to $20.

"He's the one horse who impressed me the most all day," Nerud said. "He's a big, handsome, beautiful horse; straight and clean."

Despite giving away a ton of experience to seasoned graded stakes winners such as City Zip, Point Given, Yonaguska, and Trailthefox, A P Valentine was sent off as the 3-1 favorite in the Champagne.

A P Valentine, who is owned by Celtic Pride Stable, a partnership headed by Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino, broke from the rail and never had clear sailing. Nearing the quarter pole, a frustrated Zito kept shouting to jockey Jorge Chavez, "Let him run; let him run." When Point Given drifted off the rail under left-hand whipping, Chavez gunned A P Valentine into the opening and he darted through before drawing off to win by 1 3/4 lengths in a sharp 1:41.45 for the 1 1/16 miles.

"If he goes outside, he wins by 20," screamed an emotionally charged Zito, who was winning his third-straight Champagne. "What a horse! What did I tell you?"

Point Given ran a strong race to finish second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Yonaguska.

Fever Pitch
Edward P. Evans' homebred Raging Fever extended her unbeaten streak to five with a 1 3/4-length victory in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 14. The race was marred when the 6-5 favorite Dancinginmydreams fractured her right hind leg while making a move at the quarter pole. The daughter of Seeking the Gold was doing well after undergoing surgery at New Bolton Medical Center Saturday night. The injury was diagnosed as a comminuted fracture of the first phalanx (the long pastern bone, just below the ankle).

Raging Fever tracked Spinaway winner Stormy Pick before drawing clear turning for home. The daughter of Storm Cat held on to defeat the Zito pair of Out of Sync and Western Justice, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.57.