02/18/2008 1:00AM

Fierce Wind's upset strengthens Zito's hand


OLDSMAR, Fla. - War Pass has yet to make his first start of the year, and neither has Anak Nakal. But that doesn't mean their trainer, Nick Zito, is on vacation. Zito's poker hand among his 3-year-olds grew stronger here at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, when Fierce Wind scored a determined victory in the $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Fierce Wind ($8.80), under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, outfought Big Truck in the final furlong to prevail by a half-length, with Smooth Air another three-quarters of a length back in third. Z Humor, the 6-5 favorite, was extremely sweaty in the paddock and washed out before the race, then flattened out in the race to finish fifth in the field of eight after briefly taking the lead on the final turn.

Fierce Wind ran the 1 1/16 miles on dirt in 1:44.13. The victory was his third straight, all around two turns and all in south Florida after a pair of losing efforts sprinting last summer and fall. The Sam Davis was his stakes debut.

"Two turns are always a plus when you have a horse with tactical speed," said Tim Poole, Zito's top assistant, who saddled Fierce Wind. "He was able to get to the first turn in good position."

Fierce Wind was fourth in the early going, but was always within striking distance of the early leaders. He advanced four paths wide on the turn to move after the leaders, but was fully extended to hold safe Big Truck, who made a courageous rally after being fanned wide into the stretch.

"I think he was waiting for the other horses," Velasquez said. "When the other horses tried to pass us, my horse responded."

Fierce Wind, owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, is by Dixie Union out of the A.P Indy mare Post Parade.

The Sam Davis is this track's major prep for next month's Tampa Bay Derby. Zito has tentatively put the Tampa Bay Derby on War Plan's itinerary, pending his return to action later this month.

Endeavor: Dreaming of Anna wires 'em

Dreaming of Anna, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2006, made her first start of 2008 a winning one by leading every step of the way in the Grade 3, $150,000 Endeavor Breeders' Cup Stakes for female turf runners.

Dreaming of Anna ($5.60) just lasted to beat 6-5 favorite Lear's Princess by a nose. Meribel was another three-quarters of a length back in third in the field of nine. Dreaming of Anna completed 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.38.

Velasquez rode Dreaming of Anna, and rationed her speed through fractions of 24.30 seconds, 48.85, 1:13.04, and 1:36.30.

"There was no speed in the race. That's one reason we came," said trainer Wayne Catalano, who is based across the state at Gulfstream Park during the winter. "Cornelio was just walking the dog. This was tough company, to have to come off the bench and face a field like this."

Dreaming of Anna, owned by Frank Calabrese, had not raced since finishing second in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 13. Saturday's victory was her fourth in her last five starts, and her eighth in 12 starts lifetime.

Suncoast: Vaulcluse stays unbeaten

Vaulcluse overcame a poor start in the $71,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and rallied to remain unbeaten in three starts at three different racetracks while setting a track record of 1:39.36 for one mile and 40 yards.

Vaulcluse ($6.20), the second choice, overtook My Baby Baby in the final furlong and won by one length, with No Use Denying another 6 3/4 lengths back in third. Sunday Holiday, the 8-5 favorite, trailed early and only passed tired horses to finish fifth in the field of eight.

Eibar Coa rode Vaulcluse, a daughter of A.P. Indy, for Tom Albertrani, who trains the filly for owner Eugene Melnyk.