02/25/2008 12:00AM

Cool Coal Man cashes in on perfect trip

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Nick Zito considers himself to be lucky and blessed. And that's exactly what he was in Sunday's $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Zito was lucky enough to have drawn post 1 with Cool Coal Man and blessed to have a horse talented enough to use that advantage to register a half-length decision over a game Elysium Fields in the Grade 2 race that serves as the local prep for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.

"He couldn't have gotten a better trip. Everything worked out perfectly," Zito said. "He ran great, but luck plays a big factor and he got a big break getting that post."

Cool Coal Man, who registered an allowance victory at the same 1 1/8-mile distance of the Fountain of Youth from post 1 earlier in the meet, raced in perfect striking distance under jockey Kent Desormeaux, rating off an opening quarter-mile in 24.03 seconds and a half in 47.62. Desormeaux eased Cool Coal Man off the seemingly deeper going along the rail to rally four wide entering the stretch, gained the lead from Elysium Fields leaving the turn, edged clear nearing the furlong marker, then dug in to withstand Elysium Fields's final surge after lugging back toward the inner rail in late stretch.

Elysium Fields also raced in perfect striking distance just off and outside the early leaders. He gained a brief lead three wide into the stretch, could not stay with Cool Coal Man through midstretch, then reasserted himself once he was taken outside at the sixteenth pole.

Court Vision, last after the opening half-mile, angled to the middle of the track at the head of the stretch and finished willingly to be third, 5o3/4 lengths behind Elysium Fields. Monba, the tepid 7-2 favorite, was put in tight quarters and knocked about on the clubhouse turn and finished last in the field of 12 3-year-olds. He returned from the race with a cut on the lower part of his right rear leg.

Cool Coal Man ($16.60), a son of Mineshaft owned by Robert LaPenta, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.07, according to Bernie Hettel, Gulfstream racing operations manager, who hand-timed the replay on Monday after a timing error resulted in an original time of 1:51.85.

Zito's second entrant in the Fountain of Youth, Anak Nakal, finished eighth after racing at the rear of the pack for the first six furlongs.

"I thought my other horse would run bigger but he really had no chance with such a slow pace," said Zito."

Zito made no commitments for Cool Coal Man's next start.

"If you can guarantee me he'll have 30 good days, get the one post again, and half the field will disappear, than we'll go in the Florida Derby," said Zito.

War Pass dominates allowance

War Pass, last year's champion 2-year-old male, won his 3-year-old debut as easily as it looked he would on paper, cruising to a 7 1/2-length victory in a $60,000 allowance race on Sunday at Gulfstream. The victory completed a sensational half-hour for Zito, who won the Fountain of Youth Stakes one race earlier with Cool Coal Man.

War Pass was making his first start since capturing the Breeders' Cup Juvenile nearly four months ago. Five horses were entered against him - one scratched - but the competition was weak. He was sent off the 1-20 favorite, and there was no show betting.

As is his custom, War Pass broke sharply from the gate and went right to the lead under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who wisely kept War Pass off the the slower inside rail. War Pass set fractions of 23.94, 46.72, 1:11.90, and 1:24.06 en route to final time of 1:36.38 for the one-turn mile.

Web Gem, a Zito-trained stablemate, finished second, 16 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Chadwell.

"It's a lot easier talking now, when everything's done," Zito said. "You still have anxiety when a horse hasn't run. When he came into the paddock, he was so calm. I thought, 'What is he so calm about?' I was so nervous."

War Pass, a colt by Cherokee Run, has won all five of his starts. He is owned by Will Farish's Lane's End Farm and Robert LaPenta.

Zito said War Pass will make his next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 15. After that, Zito said, he would run in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5, his final prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

- Jay Privman