Race of the Week 2017

Travers Results a Mixed Bag for Zito

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito came within a nostril of winning his second Travers in 23 tries with Fly Down, but instead had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish.


Zito had run second previously with Louis Quatorze (1996), Albert the Great (2000), The Cliff’s Edge (2004) and Bellamy Road (2005), with Albert the Great's loss coming by a head. Birdstone, in 2004, gave Zito his lone Travers victory.


“I don’t know what to say,” Zito said. “It’s frustrating, but we’ve got to be grateful to be in these races, that’s for sure. I’ve got to be grateful that way and think about that, but on the other hand, getting beat all these races is tough. Fly Down obviously ran a winning race. A nose here or there, that’s all. It’s just a tough break, that’s all I can say. We do the best we can, right or wrong?”


Owned by Richard C. Pell, Fly Down had run fifth in the Jim Dandy, beaten 4 ½ lengths after being forced to check late. Prior to that, he was second in the Belmont Stakes and won the Grade 2 Dwyer, both at Belmont Park.


“I watched the replay in the grandstand with a lot of fans, and that replay shows he won,” Zito said. “In the clubhouse, it looked like it could have gone either way, but it didn’t look as good as it did in the grandstand. It’s weird.


“Mr. Pell said to me, ‘I don’t think we got it, Nick.’ I thought like maybe he did, because he’s so long. It was a really tough race.”


Looking ahead, Zito is eyeing the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 6 for Fly Down, possibly using the Grade 1 $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont to get there.


“The goal would be to somehow try to get him to the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” he said. “I don’t know what races we’ll pick yet. We’ll just wait it out. Hopefully he’s OK and if that’s the case, then we’ll see. The Gold Cup is something to think about. He likes Belmont, so we’ll see what happens.”


Zito said Miner’s Reserve, the Jim Dandy runner-up who set the Travers pace from the gate to the eighth pole before tiring to finish seventh off 11, emerged from the race with soreness in his right front foot.


“I’m a little worried about his foot,” Zito said. “We X-rayed him and it was OK. Hopefully, he’s going to be all right, but it looks like he has a really severe bruised foot. Let’s hope that’s it. Thank God the X-rays are good. We noticed it when he came back to the barn. He walked back fine, and maybe a half-hour after, he started favoring it. He was in front all the way and I don’t know if that made him stop or the mile and a quarter made him stop.”

Meanwhile, Zito remains mystified with Ice Box, who finished eighth. After winning the Grade 1 Florida Derby and closing to be second following a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby, the Pulpit colt was ninth in the Belmont and sixth in the Grade 1 Haskell before the Travers, beaten nearly 30 lengths combined.


“Ice Box came back good. I don’t know what it is,” Zito said. “We scoped him and didn’t find any displacement or anything. I don’t know what it is, to be honest with you. I’m a little disappointed in him. He was far back, but so was Fly Down. It wasn’t a closing track yesterday, but definitely disappointing. Maybe we’ll take some precautions and check him out real good and see what the story is. He certainly didn’t duplicate his Florida Derby or Kentucky Derby.”




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