03/30/2009 11:00PM

Da' Tara gets softer spot in bid to end skid


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It might have made good sense for trainer Nick Zito to run Da' Tara in Saturday's Grade 3 Skip Away. But it made even better sense to Zito to enter the 2008 Belmont Stakes winner in Wednesday's $46,000 feature at Gulfstream Park, where he figures to be the horse to beat in the 1 1/8-mile optional claiming race.

Da' Tara remains winless in five starts since cruising to an easy 5 1/4-length triumph in the Belmont Stakes. Da' Tara led throughout to post the most important victory of his career, and he figures to be able to control the pace in similar fashion when stretching out off a sharp sprint outing here earlier in the meet.

A son of Tiznow, Da' Tara recovered from an unlucky start to finish second behind Pictural going seven furlongs Feb. 28. The outing was his first since concluding his 3-year-old campaign with a third-place finish going 1 1/16 miles under slightly tougher allowance conditions at Churchill Downs three months earlier.

"I thought his first start this winter was good off the bench," said Zito, who trains Da' Tara for Robert LaPenta. "I was thinking of running him in the Skip Away, where he would have been competitive, but this is a better idea. The old way is the best way, and that's to get him in an easier spot and give him a confidence builder."

Paco Lopez, who has had some success riding for Zito here during the session, will be aboard Da' Tara in Wednesday's main event.

Of the six others in the race, Dream Maestro and Fancy Runner may have the best chance of upsetting the favorite.

Dream Maestro is a multiple graded stakes-placed gelding who exits a third-place finish going a mile under similar conditions March 7. Trained by Bill Kaplan, the Calder-based 4-year-old turned in a big effort over the local strip a year ago when second in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. He also was second behind the loose-on-the-lead Finallymadeit in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper Handicap to close out his 3-year-old campaign.

Fancy Runner has already posted a couple of second-place finishes going a mile here during the current session for owner-trainer-jockey Clyde Martin but may be even more effective at nine furlongs, having won three of his seven lifetime tries at that distance.

B. B. Best, Too Good, Coach Shaw, and Premium Gold complete the lineup.