12/10/2004 12:00AM

Commentator legs up for Hal's Hope

Email

MIAMI - Trainer Nick Zito's New York-bred sensation Commentator breezed five furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Friday morning, although the work won't appear on any clocker's tab.

With the grandstand gone and a temporary facility under construction at Gulfstream, there is hardly any vantage point for trainers or clockers to view, let alone accurately time, horses during training hours there. As a result, there are no official clockers employed at the track, even though the main track has been open for training since the second week of November.

"I caught him in about 1:02 and change," said Zito, who did his best to watch and clock Commentator's work from ground level at the finish line amidst all the construction going on at the track.

While Commentator was not credited with an official workout time, the move was important for the undefeated colt, who will make his two-turn debut in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 5. A good showing would earn Commentator, a son of Outsource, a start in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap four weeks later.

Commentator has yet to be tested in five starts, including three one-sided victories in statebred races, a surprisingly easy seven-length win over Eurosilver in Keeneland's Perryville Stakes, and an eight-length tour de force in his season finale in a $100,000 optional claimer at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day. Commentator is owned by Tracy Farmer.

"He's a very talented horse, and I've handled him with care up to this point," said Zito. "He went well this morning, and I have no concern whatsoever about him being able to stay two turns. If all goes well we're shooting for the Donn."

Zito without Florida Derby horse, yet

Zito has 45 horses in training in south Florida. Twenty-four of them are in one of the newly constructed barns at Gulfstream and another 21, including his top 2-year-old prospect Sun King, are at the Palm Meadows training center.

"It's early yet, but so far the new track here at Gulfstream is A-1-A," said Zito. "The horses just seem to get over it and finish so easily when they work."

Zito's name was conspicuously absent when early-bird nominations were released last week for the 2005 Florida Derby. Zito has been one of the biggest supporters of the Grade 1 race for the last decade and has used the Florida Derby as a springboard to some of his most famous victories. Both Zito Kentucky Derby winners, Go for Gin and Strike the Gold, as well as his Preakness winner Louis Quatorze, all ran in the Florida Derby.

"Last year I had three terrific 2-year-olds coming into this meet, and while it's a good situation for any trainer to be in, it was also kind of a strain," Zito said, when asked why he had not nominated any horses for the Florida Derby. "This year, the only big name 2-year-old I have is Sun King to go along with several less-experienced ones I have high hopes for. So rather than nominate the whole slew, I'll wait to see them develop and then nominate for the races as they come along."

Calder is spot for gate training

Along with no clockers at Gulfstream, there also has been no starting gate. So several trainers put their horses on vans this week and moved them to Calder to work and get certified from the gate.

On Thursday, Barclay Tagg worked Papalong in company along with the Allen Jerkens-trained What Else from the Calder gate. On Friday, trainer George Handy sent over his pair of Stormin Morn and Aches and Pains to work from the gate.

Trainer Alan Seewald sent Vinemeister over from Gulfstream to work five furlongs in 1:02 at Calder on Thursday. Vinemeister is among the candidates for Saturday's $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap.

Aclassysassylassy to make turf bow

Aclassysassylassy will make her turf debut, as expected, in Sunday's $50,000 Georgia Debutante Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile race is restricted to progeny of sires that have had a season donated to the Georgia Stallion Auction of 2005.

A field of 10 was entered for the Georgia Debutante. Of the 10, only Dansetta Light, who comes off an impressive turf debut when second behind the odds-on Rich in Spirit in the John Franks Juvenile Turf Stakes, appears to have any chance of preventing Aclassysassylassy from winning her fifth straight stakes.

Aclassysassylassy, who was scratched from last Saturday's Three Ring Stakes due to a brief illness, worked five furlongs in 59 seconds over the turf course here Monday.