Zito Has Powerful One-Two Combination In Donn
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Understandably overshadowed in the frenzy created by the monumental photo finish between Blame and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs last fall was Fly Down’s race-long battle against adversity.
Although never a threat to the victorious Blame and eventual Horse of the Year Zenyatta, Fly Down turned in a valiant performance to finish third in the $5 million Classic.
“He’s a wonderful horse. He was one of the best 3-year-olds of 2010,” said trainer Nick Zito during training hours at Gulfstream Park’s Palm Meadows training center this week. “Hopefully, he’ll start his 2011 season where he finished off.”
Fly Down’s 2011 season will kick off in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream, where he captured a stakes-quality entry-level allowance race last year, edging First Dude, who would go on to finish second in the Preakness Stakes. The 4-year-old son of Mineshaft’s biggest win of 2010 came in the Dwyer (G2), in which he defeated eventual Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Drosselmeyer by six lengths. He went on to finish less than a length behind Drosselmeyer in the Belmont, before getting nosed by Afleet Express in the Travers (G1) and checking in third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Classic.
“He was tremendous in the Breeders’ Cup. He had some trouble behind Blame and Zenyatta, and Lookin At Lucky was fourth in there. In the Travers, he got beat a whisker. In the Belmont, he was second,” said Zito, who trains the Kentucky-bred colt for Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah. “He is a tremendous horse. He runs all the time.”
Fly Down, who’ll carry highweight of 122 pounds (including Julien Leparoux), will be accompanied in the starting gate for the 1-1/8-mile handicap Saturday with stablemate Morning Line.
“I don’t really like running entries, no matter how many entries I have. If you’re a public trainer, you’re going to have to do that,” their Hall of Fame trainer said. “I think the main thing is that both horses complement each other – one has tactical speed and stays closer, and the other one comes from behind. That’s a good thing.”
Morning Line had his own bit of tough Breeders’ Cup luck at Churchill Downs
After pressing a very swift early pace and opening a clear lead in the stretch run of the Dirt Mile, the son of Tiznow was headed at the finish by Dakota Phone in the one-turn race. Previously, he scored back-to-back two-turn victories at 1-1/8-miles in a Saratoga allowance and the Pennsylvania Derby (G2).
“I think he’s going to be better going long – that’s what his pedigree wants. His father, Tiznow, won the Breeders’ Cup (Classic) twice,” Zito said. “There’s no question that distance is no problem.”
Morning Line, who will be ridden by John Velazquez, has had a prep race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 8, when he faltered to finish third after setting the pace in the one-turn Hal’s Hope (G3), won by Soaring Empire.
“I think everything just didn’t work out that day. The winner was very good that day,” said Zito, whose colt was favored at even-money. “It was a good comeback race. If everything goes well, he should run his race.”
Morning Line and Rule, who finished second in the Hal’s Hope, will carry second highweight of 119 pounds.
A big effort in the Donn could earn Morning Line a trip to the Persian Gulf.
Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Zabeel Racing recently purchased an ownership interest in Morning Line from Thoroughbred Legends Stab le with an obvious eye toward the Dubai World Cup next month.