Zito Hopes to Find the Right Spot

Spot Swale 615 X 400
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Natalie Fawkes
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito was philosophical Wednesday morning when discussing the next race for 91-year-old owner Joseph Moss’s Spot, surprise winner of the $150,000 Swale (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 1.            

“I guess you could say I have to find the right spot for Spot,” Zito said. “That’s what I’m looking at. Mr. Moss is a gamer and he wants to run somewhere. I’m basically looking at what I should do.”            

Spot ran down previously unbeaten Group 1 stakes winner No Nay Never to win the seven-furlong Swale by 2 ½ lengths at odds of 9-1. Zito plans to work the Pulpit colt on Saturday at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, before making a decision.            

The $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) on March 29 remains a strong possibility. The race carries 170 qualifying points for the May 3 Kentucky Derby (G1), including 100 to the winner and 40 for second.            

“I have to see how he works Saturday. After Saturday, I’m supposed to talk to Joe and tell him what we think,” Zito said. “Obviously we’re home right now in Florida and I have a good record in the Florida Derby. If there’s a small field in the Florida Derby, I know the horse is extremely tough. Everybody’s goal, especially Mr. Moss’s, is to run in the Kentucky Derby.”            

Zito won the Florida Derby with High Fly in 2005 and back-to-back editions with Ice Box and Dialed In in 2010 and 2011, respectively, while Pulpit ran second in 1997. Spot broke his maiden in his fourth start last fall at Hawthorne Park, and opened his 3-year-old season finishing fifth in the Hutcheson (G3) at Gulfstream on Feb. 1.            

“I want to see him work. I have to show respect to Joe and talk to him about it,” Zito said. “On paper, the Florida Derby is very, very tough. No matter how you look at it, we’re probably better off staying home. He looks good and he’s doing fantastic, thank God. He’s doing well and we’ve got a pretty good record in the Florida Derby, so who knows?”            

While Spot’s plans remain on hold, Zito brings 2013 Bay Shore (G3) winner Declan’s Warrior back from a nearly seven-month layoff in Thursday’s eighth race at Gulfstream, a $30,000 starter allowance at 6 ½ furlongs.            

Owned by Zito and his wife Kim’s Lucky Shamrock Stable, Declan’s Warrior hasn’t run since being eased in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga Race Course last summer, his first race under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.            

“We couldn’t figure out what happened,” Zito said. “He had probably one of the best workouts of the Saratoga meet going in. Johnny warmed him up and said he warmed up absolutely perfect. When he left the gate, he just trailed the failed and Johnny couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He came back fine and cooled out fine. We took X-rays all over the place and sent him to Dr. [Larry] Bramlage, who said he had a couple of things he thought could have been pinching him. He cleaned him up and, thank God, he’s had a perfect bill of health ever since.”            

Declan’s Warrior has had seven works since mid-January for his return, including a bullet half-mile in 47.75 seconds on March 10, the fastest of 44 horses. He drew post seven in the field of eight and is reunited with Jose Lezcano, who rode each of his first seven starts.            

“We just took all the time in the world because he’s one of our favorite horses. We gave him extra time. We jogged him and galloped him for months,” Zito said. “He had a work the other day that was similar to Spot’s workout before he won the Swale. We’re very excited about tomorrow. Hopefully, he’ll run great.”      


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Older Comments about Zito Hopes to Find the Right Spot...

Would LOVE to see Nick with a Derby horse....but by the name of "Spot"...? What an awful name - poor horse...LOL....at least he's a beautiful grey!

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