03/05/2002 12:00AM

Analyzing Zito's sophomore class

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LAS VEGAS - It has been well documented that Nick Zito lives for the Kentucky Derby. Three weeks before Strike the Gold (by Alydar) became Zito's first Derby winner in 1991, Go for Gin (Cormorant), his second Derby winner, was born. Last year, A P Valentine (A.P. Indy) had a disastrous trip in the Derby but redeemed himself by running second in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

While many of his runners are not seasoned enough for the Derby, Zito has an unusually large arsenal of 3-year-olds this year, including the following:

American Style (Quiet American-Style Setter, by Manila). Quiet American has sired a Derby winner, Real Quiet, and this colt gets an abundance of stamina from his damsire, Manila, as well as European stallion Charlottesville. American Style is pointing to the Wood Memorial Stakes but may prep in a two-other-than allowance Saturday at Gulfstream. His female family produced the 1965 Irish Sweeps Derby winner, Meadow Court.

A.P. Aspen (A.P. Indy-Gone for Gusto, by Gone West). On the surface, A.P. Aspen has an attractive pedigree, being by A.P. Indy out of a Gone West mare. Further analysis, however, reveals a rather weak female line. With A.P. Indy, Gone West, and Vice Regent up close in his pedigree, A.P. Aspen may be most effective on grass.

Colonial Gift (Pleasant Colony-Connie's Gift, by Nijinsky II). True to his pedigree, Colonial Gift is devoid of speed, but the Derby distance is right up his alley. Colonial Gift is from the penultimate crop of the 1981 Derby winner, Pleasant Colony, and his damsire, Nijinsky II, and second damsire, Buckpasser, are synonymous with stamina. This female line produced Sportin' Life, the sire of Belmont Stakes winner Bet Twice.

Crimson Hero (Capote-Bright Feather, by Fappiano). A half-brother to Albert the Great, Crimson Hero raced three times at 2, including a fourth-place finish behind Siphonic, Harlan's Holiday, and Metatron in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity after winning a maiden race. His female family produced In My Cap, Trumpet's Blare, and Raja's Revenge. By speed influence Capote, he should be a good miler who may stretch out to 1 1/8 miles.

Father Steve (Pulpit-Savanna Anna, by Vice Regent). A half-brother to the brilliant Miss Indy Anna (Apalachee) and Time Limit (Gilded Time), Father Steve has the looks to match his pedigree, as he brought $900,000 as a yearling. A member of Pulpit's first crop, he could develop into a solid miler later in the year.

Foreign Authority (French Deputy-No Mecourtney, by Jeblar). Strongly bred for grass. French Deputy was exported to Japan just as his runners are winning on all surfaces, especially turf. His damsire, Jeblar, and second damsire, Mac Diarmida, are superior turf influences. Fappiano, Honour and Glory, Quiet American, Ogygian, and Commendable descend from this outstanding female family.

Governor Hickel (Gulch-Existentialist, by Relaunch). Gulch has been a revelation. The champion sprinter sired Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch, one of America's premier sources of stamina. Governor Hickel's dam is a half-sister to leading Maryland-based sire Allen's Prospect and foundation broodmare Fall Aspen.

High Star (Private Terms-Polember, by Polish Navy). Currently, Zito's best hope for the Derby, and he is inbred 5x4 to Busanda (dam of Buckpasser), creating the Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals).

Maximus Honor (Woodman-Glowing Honor, by Seattle Slew). The Woodman-Seattle Slew nick has been highly successful because it creates the Rasmussen Factor. Maximus Honor is inbred to Glamour. Others with this connection to Glamour include stakes winners Anguilla, Heritage of Gold, Hishi Akebono, and Patience Game. His dam is one of seven stakes winners (including Derby winner Sea Hero) produced by the 1993 Broodmare of the Year, Glowing Tribute.

Mighty Gulch (Gulch-Mighty Mags, by Wild Again). Another Gulch from a fine female family. Her unraced dam is a half-sister to stakes winner Stalwart, and second dam is multiple stakes winner Yes Dear Maggy.

Quest (Seeking the Gold-Starlore, by Spectacular Bid). A pedigree full of stamina, and the colt who may be Zito's best by year's end. Third dam is English highweight Mysterious, multiple Group 1-winning half-sister to an English champion, J.O. Tobin.

Silent Fred (Louis Quatorze-D'Youville Nurse, by Dr. Blum). Like Repent, he is from the first crop of Louis Quatorze, whom Zito trained to win the Preakness. A half-brother to Unbridled Hope, he finished third in the Remsen last fall.

Straight Gin (Go for Gin-Valeta, by Procida). Pedigree of speed and class. Second dam is a half-sister to Coastal, Slew o' Gold, and Dokki, the dam of Aptitude.

Tell J (A.P. Indy-Prospinsky, by Mr. Prospector). Very strong female family cultivated by George D. Widener. Fourth dam is 1965 3-year-old filly champion, What a Treat.

Thunder Force (Thunder Gulch-Mangala, by Sharpen Up). Stamina and class. He is a half-brother to stakes winner Allied Forces, and his second dam is a full sister to a Derby and Preakness winner Majestic Prince.