Gulfstream News & Notes
Grass is Becoming Greener for Zito
Nick Zito, who was hardly ever represented in turf races while compiling his Hall of Fame training resume, has recently increased his stable’s participation in grass racing. The two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer, whose concentration had been squarely focused on young horses running on dirt, may not have delved into the turf wars with unbridled enthusiasm, but he has become reconciled to the notion that the grass is becoming increasingly greener in today’s racing industry.
“I’m a dirt trainer, but there’s so much turf racing, it’s almost like you have to try your horses on it now,” Zito said. “As you’ve noticed, we’ve been winning more turf races. It’s just that there’s more turf racing…and Poly too. If you want to be a trainer in today’s racing, you almost have to have those kind of horses.”
John Hendrickson, Marylou Whitney’s husband and stable manager, encouraged Zito when they decided to try an underachieving Flying Bird on turf last September.
“We kicked it around, and John said, ‘You’re just as good a turf trainer as you are a dirt trainer. You just don’t know it,’” Zito said with a chuckle.
Flying Bird, who was winless in three starts on dirt, responded to the change in surfaces to win his next two races, a maiden-breaker at Delaware and an impressive off-the-pace allowance win by two lengths at Churchill Downs.
“He picked it up. He’s won the two, and hopefully he’ll keep going,” Zito said. “He’s done everything right. He wants to improve; he wants to be a nice horse, it looks like."
Zito, who did saddle Chelsey Flower for a Grade 1 victory in the 1996 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont, will send the 3-year-old son of Street Boss to the Gulfstream Park turf course Sunday for his stakes debut in the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes.
Zito has another promising 3-year-old Whitney homebred in Mountain Eagle, who captured a maiden special weight race by 4 ½ lengths at Gulfstream on Dec. 8.
“We haven’t made up our minds yet what we’re going to do with him,” Zito said. “Obviously, a high-level allowance race is enough. He just broke his maiden.”
Mountain Eagle is a gelded son of Birdstone, a Whitney homebred whom Zito saddled for victories in the 2004 Belmont and Travers Stakes.
Improvement Expected for ‘Kitten’ In Kitten’s Joy
A glance at the past performance lines of Charming Kitten would lead most handicappers to expect a move forward in Sunday’s $100,000 Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream. Breaking from the far-outside post position for his first start in three mounts, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt raced four-wide into the stretch and fell a half-length short of catching victorious Mystic Love in the $100,000 Dania Beach on Dec. 15.
Count trainer Todd Pletcher among those who are expecting Charming Kitten to make strides forward in Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile turf stakes.
“He lost a little bit of ground (due to the No. 10 post), but I thought he ran well in spite of that. He’s training even better for this race, so we’re optimistic he’ll have an improved performance,” Pletcher said.
Charming Kitten is a son of Kitten’s Joy and is owned by breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who campaigned Kitten’s Joy, the 2004 Eclipse Award-winning male turf champion.
The Pletcher-trained Discreet Dancer, who was nominated but was not entered for Saturday’s $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint, is nearing a return to action from an 11-month layoff.
“He’s getting there. We’re still probably a few works away. He’s training well and has come back well so far,” said Pletcher, who saddled Discreet Dancer to a pair of dominating victories to open his career at Gulfstream last season before a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) last February.
The Pletcher-trained Verrazano has been training well since scoring an eye-catching debut victory by more than seven lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 1,
“He had a good breeze on Sunday (four furlongs in :49 2/5), and he’ll have another one this Sunday. Then, we’ll look for a spot for him maybe next month,” Pletcher said. “Most likely we’ll go the allowance route. We’ll look to gradually stretch out.”
Last Chance to Bid for Aftercare
The silent and live auctions benefitting Gulfstream's Thoroughbred Aftercare Program and featuring items for travel, sport and art enthusiasts will come to end Friday evening.
To bid on numerous stallion seasons, tickets to the U.S. Open, airfare and accommodations to the 2013 Breeders' Cup, racing packages to Del Mar and Saratoga, accommodations at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, a basketball signed by Miami Heat president Pat Riley, and photographs by Barbara Livingston, go to biddingforgood.com/gpaftercare and register.