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