(photo by Brien Bouyea)
By NICOLE RUSSO
It was more of the same for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Tough beats have been the story of the year for the 2005 inductee, and the racing gods handed him two more on Saturday. Morning Line was second by a head in the Dirt Mile while Fly Down was a credible third in the Classic.
“I can’t believe this,” Zito said. “What do they say about adversity and God testing somebody? I guess I’m becoming immune to it. But it’s amazing how tough this year has been. But I have to be glad the way they ran.”
Morning Line, a son of Hall of Famer Tiznow, led the Dirt Mile field by a length and a half in deep stretch, but Dakota Phone rallied strongly in the final furlong to nip the colt by a head. Zito also trained fourth-place finisher Cool Coal Man.
A few hours later, the 3-year-old Fly Down was third behind Horse of the Year contenders Zenyatta and Blame in the $5 million Classic.
“[Musket Man] came right over on me early and we had to check; you heard (track announcer) Trevor Denman say that,” Zito said. “The horse had plenty of run. Obviously, [jockey Julien Leparoux is] upset about it because that cost him a lot. He was in a nice position, he was settling and he had to lose all that ground. Julien is right about that because in a big race like that you can’t give Zenyatta and Blame whatever. But he ran his guts out. All in all, I’m very happy. No question. Very happy.”
Fly Down has been close but not quite in a series of major races for Zito this year. He was second by three-quarters of a length in the Belmont, second by a nose in the Belmont and third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Zito’s Ice Box was a fast-closing second in the Kentucky Derby. He also finished third by less than a length with Jackson Bend in the Preakness and second with Miner’s Reserve in the Jim Dandy.