Zito Turns the Page with Nevada Kid
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Jason Servis may have a pair of contenders for owner Mr. Amore Stable in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint, which will be run at Gulfstream Park in six weeks on January 18.
“He came out of it well,” Servis said.
The Florida-bred son of Louis Quatorze essentially trains himself, according to Servis.
“I don’t do much with him—I just try to stay out of his way,” the conditioner quipped. “He eats lots of dandelions, I can tell you that.”
Ribo Bobo has come a long way since being claimed for $6,250 last March at Gulfstream, winning a pair of added-money events prior to his Claiming Crown success. He may be joined in the Sunshine Millions sprint by stablemate Tightend Touchdown, who has also ascended the class ladder since being haltered for $35,000 last winter at Aqueduct. Bred in Florida by Laurie and Chad Stewart, the chestnut has become a first-rate sprinter on the grass. In his most recent appearance, the 4-year-old outran his 18-1 odds to dead-heat for second in the $1-million Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on November 2. Servis was pleased with the way his charge handled the unique configuration of that 6 ½-furlong test.
“I was concerned with the downhill, because they say it’s a course for a horse,” Servis explained. “But he was in good flesh and I thought he’d run his race.
While Tightend Touchdown has clearly shown his prowess on the turf, Servis feels the gelding has made overall progression.
“I think he’s more of a grass horse, but there are not that many options around other than a stakes at Gulfstream in February [the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on February 1], so maybe this would be a good opportunity to try him on the dirt,” Servis mused. “It looks like he has turned a corner and might just be a better horse than last year.”
Tightend Touchdown has been freshened up since his Breeders’ Cup effort, but Servis feels the Mr. Amore colorbearer will come to hand quickly.
“I’ve got plenty of time to get him ready for the Sunshine Millions,” Servis concluded. “I might breeze him in about three weeks.”
Zito Turns the Page
It has been a slower than usual year for Nick Zito in 2013, but the Hall of Fame trainer was still in a jovial mood on Sunday morning following Nevada Kid’s upset of the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel.
Under jockey Luis Saez, Nevada Kid broke from the rail and went gate to wire to win by 2 ¼ lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Jewel, the richest of the eight Claiming Crown races on Saturday’s card.
“That was actually an asset that he was on the fence, and it worked in our favor,” Zito said. “It was beneficial for him because he runs his best races on top. He certainly likes to be close. I was very impressed with the horse and very impressed with Luis. It worked out good.”
It was the 28th win in 300 starts this year for Zito, 65. The $110,000 winner’s purse boosted his earnings to $1,912,481; he has not finished under $2 million in purse earnings since 1989.
“He was training well, but I haven’t been feeling that confident with anything lately,” Zito said. “This was good, to be honest with you. That’s the way racing is. It was terrific yesterday.”
Zito is one of only two trainers to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby in successive years, taking it in 2010 with Ice Box and 2011 with Dialed In. Ice Box went on to run second in the Kentucky Derby, while Dialed In was eighth in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness.
In his career, Zito has won the Derby twice, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes twice, two Breeders’ Cup races, and trained a pair of year-end champions in Storm Song and War Pass.
“We knew once we got to Gulfstream we’d turn the page and things would turn around,” Zito said. “You get somewhat of a reputation that we’ve had over the years, and if you’re not in the big show, the big races, there’s reasons for that a lot of time. Look at one of my peers, Wayne Lukas. There’s your answer. He went a long time.
“The last time I looked, I won two Florida Derbys in a row, and it was only three years ago, not 33. In this business, they forget. This win was good for the barn, it’s good for everybody. It’s something we can build on. I love coming to Gulfstream every year. This is where we winter. It’s world-class racing.”
Zito said there are no immediate plans for Nevada Kid, who beat a field of 10 including 9-5 favorite Bernie the Maestro, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who are the leading money-winning owners in the country.
“I was even taken back when Ken Ramsey congratulated us,” Zito said. “I said, ‘That’s amazing. We even beat Ken Ramsey.’ It’s like winning the Derby. It’s hard to do.”