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Zito Feels Good About Declan's Warrior

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito was in a reflective mood on Sunday, the morning after saddling Declan’s Warrior to a victory in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Bay Shore for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.


Zito, a native of Manhattan who now splits his time between Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and Florida, said winning at Aqueduct is special to him because it inspires him to reflect upon his early days in horse racing when he worked for trainers Buddy Jacobson, Bob Lake, Johnny Campo, and LeRoy Jolley. Zito took out his trainer’s license in 1973 and gained prominence in 1990 when he won the Gotham and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct with Thirty Six Red, ridden by future Hall of Famer Mike Smith.


“For me, when I go to Aqueduct it brings back memories from when I first started," said Zito. "[Winning my] first Wood and Gotham, that launched Mike Smith’s career. New York has always been special to me, and Aqueduct, believe it or not. I always have a good feeling. That’s why I always watch the races downstairs [at Aqueduct] – that’s where I’d watch the races when I was a groom. I walked back and forth to the barn all day long, freezing. I have a little sore throat. I was yelling. There’s a lot of nostalgia there. It was really cool.”


Declan’s Warrior is owned by Zito’s wife, who races under the name Lucky Shamrock Stable, making the victory even more special for the 65-year-old trainer. Lucky Shamrock has been active since 2000.


“We’ve been breeding horses with Lucky Shamrock and family for I don’t know how many years,” said Zito. “Sometimes you got to wait for a horse like that. We’ve had a couple here and there, but nothing like this. We bred the mare back to Majestic Warrior before [Declan’s Warrior] won this race, so there will be a full brother or sister [to Declan’s Warrior].”


Zito was non-committal regarding Declan’s Warrior’s next start, mentioning a wide range of possibilities such as the Grade 3 Derby Trial on April 27 at Churchill Downs, the Grade 1 Preakness on May 18, and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens or Easy Goer on June 8 on the Belmont Stakes undercard.


“We’ll have to figure out something,” said Zito. “If he stays at that distance, we always have the King’s Bishop [on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course].”




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