01/13/2005 12:00AM

Add In the Gold to Zito's riches

Edgar Prado rode In the Gold for his meet-leading eighth win Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Nick Zito has won two Kentucky Derbies and last year sent out Birdstone to capture both the Belmont and Travers. But when it comes to 3-year-olds, Zito can be a ladies man as well.

In 2003, Zito won the 3-year-old filly championship with Birdstone's older sister Bird Town. This year he may have another top contender in that division with In the Gold, a daughter of Golden Missile, who got her 3-year-old campaign off to a good start with a first-level allowance victory on Thursday.

In the Gold finished third, beaten a head, in the Grade 2 Alcibiades last fall at Keeneland, only to get sick while preparing for a start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She concluded the year with a disappointing outing in the Golden Rod.

"She's a really good filly," said Zito. "A combination of factors led to her poor effort in the Golden Rod, but she bounced back nicely today. This was an excellent race for her. I'll point her to the 3-year-old filly series here this winter and we'll see what happens."

Prado shoots to top of standings

In the Gold was ridden Thursday by Edgar Prado, who has gotten off to a quick start at the current meet. The win was his eighth of the meet and it put him atop the rider standings after the first six days.

Prado finished second among all riders nationwide in earnings in 2004. Besides his victories on Birdstone in the Belmont and Travers, his other Grade 1 wins in 2004 came in the Matron (aboard Sense of Style), Test (Society Selection), Forego (Midas Eyes), King's Bishop (Pomeroy), Man o' War (Magistretti), United Nations (Request for Parole), and Diana Handicap (Wonder Again).

Prado was the leading rider at the 2002 Gulfstream meet and tied for second last year behind John Velazquez.

As is the case with most of the upper-echelon riders here for the winter, Prado is looking to find a Kentucky Derby candidate to ride. His top prospect is Sun King, whom Prado rode to a third-place finish for Zito in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"I saw Sun King at Palm Meadows this week and he looks great," said Prado. "He appears to have put on a lot of weight since I rode him in the Breeders' Cup. But Nick is in no hurry to rush him back to the races."

Weaver getting Derby fever

Trainer George Weaver may have a couple of Kentucky Derby hopefuls this winter in Devil at Sea and Drum Major, both of whom finished second in races last Saturday. Devil at Sea failed to hold off Dearest Mon after setting the pace in a seven-furlong allowance dash, while Drum Major overcame trouble at the gate yet defeated all but runaway winner High Fly in the Aventura Stakes.

"I was really pleased with both their races," said Weaver. "Devil at Sea has only run twice and is still getting fit.

I think he's got the ability and talent to be on the Derby trail, and that's the direction we'll head with him for now. He'll be nominated for the Hutcheson, although I haven't ruled out the possibility he could come back in another allowance race."

Drum Major, a versatile son of Dynaformer, finished third in the Pilgrim Stakes on grass in his second start. He has also turned in several strong races on dirt.

"He ran well Saturday," said Weaver. "Unfortunately, he hooked a real good one in High Fly. We'll consider either the Holy Bull or the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds for his next start, and it will probably help our decision if it looks like High Fly will be skipping the Holy Bull.

Weaver completed a big day Saturday when Saratoga County rallied from last to win the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths. It was Saratoga County's second consecutive one-sided tally.

"He won the Gotham last spring but never could quite get over the ledge after that," said Weaver. "He began to show signs of turning over a new leaf when he won that allowance race at Churchill, and it was good to see him validate that effort with his performance here last weekend."

Saratoga County will likely make his next start in the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister Handicap on Feb. 5.

* Jorge Chavez had a winner Thursday to move within three of his 4,000th career victory.