Three of trainer Nick Zito's five Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starters drilled Sunday morning at Churchill Downs and all three "went exceptionally well" for the two-time Derby-winning trainer. All three worked under blue skies and cool weather with exercise rider Maxine Correa aboard.
Going out on the track early, Kinsman Stable's Bellamy Road
zipped five furlongs in :59 3/5. Also out for some early exercise was Len Riggio's My Meadowview Farm's Noble Causeway
, who got five furlongs in 1:00 flat. Going out to the track just after the break, Live Oak Plantation's High Fly
went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5.
Zito will also have two other horses for the Derby: Robert LaPenta's Andromeda's Hero and Tracy Farmer's Sun King.
Of Bellamy Road, the likely Derby favorite off his 17 ½-length win in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 9, Zito said "I thought Maxine did a great job. It was a good thing that she worked him the way she did, because it was obvious that he was even all the way around. He finished up good and he looked totally relaxed going it."
Bellamy Road, a striking dark bay or brown son of Concerto--Hurry Home Hillary, by Deputed Testamony, has won four of five career starts, all except for his maiden win last August in front-running fashion.
"If you gear up a horse, or get them too keen, you'll never really have a shot to get them to relax," said Zito outside Barn 36 at Churchill Downs. "What we try to do in our program, especially the last 15 years, is basically to try to get all of horses to finish and relax. I think our stable now, all people know, we try to get a horse to go a mile and a quarter. Don't get me wrong -- it's the horses that get the job done. I mean it was Birdstone that ran the mile and a half in the Belmont. We helped a little bit with the training. That's what we're trying to do.
"There's been so much talk about he (Bellamy Road) won't rate or this or that, so at least this last work, and the work before, at least shows us some indication that maybe he will. I think he will. If you watched the work, he sure looks like it. But you never know when the gates open up. Racing is different."
Bellamy Road's previous work was a five-furlong move in 1:02 4/5 April 21.
Noble Causeway, second in the Florida Derby (gr. I) behind High Fly, is a son of first-year sire Giant's Causeway
out of the Seeking the Gold
mare Mimi's Golden Girl. He was a $1.15 million purchase out of the Keeneland September sale. Riggio, CEO of Barnes and Noble bookstores, and bloodstock advisor David Foyle were on hand to watch the work.
"I thought he worked very well," Zito said of Noble Causeway's drill. "I used a horse with him. That horses' name is Capac. He's not a bad horse, he's kind of coming around. We got that horse a few months ago. He's not Ghostzapper, so what happened was Kapac, obviously, couldn't keep up with Noble Causeway. So as far as maybe the last part of that, I think that was good too, because he might have gone a little too fast.
"On the other hand, we needed a little zip in him, because in the Derby, as we always say, 'these guys play for real' and you've got to get to a spot sometime. (Jockey) Gary (Stevens) is going to have to get to a spot, so that looked really good.
"It looks like we got that job done," Zito said. "I was very happy about his gallop out. We know he'll go a mile and a quarter."
High Fly's drill was a little more exciting, in that he also worked with another Zito runner, but was joined in the last part of the work by another horse.
"He worked with a horse named Last Samurai, who is owned by Mrs. Weber, too," Zito said of High Fly. "I thought he went extremely well, but I think the main thing with him, was whoever that horse was, it maybe a blessing, that last eighth, that really got him going when he saw that horse."
High Fly is a Live Oak Stud (owned by Charlotte Weber) homebred by Atticus
--Verbasle, by Slewpy. The Kentucky-bred has a 5-0-1 slate from six career starts. In addition to winning the Florida Derby, he won the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream Park. His lone defeat came in a third-place effort in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) back in early February.
Zito, in answering questions from the media, was asked about his chances with five quality horses in the Derby and his quest for his third win. "If we don't get number three now, then I'll have to have Secretariat himself. There's no question. I can't ask the man upstairs to give me a better shot at this. But this is a game that humbles kings. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. Hopefully one of these five will get over the line."