01/31/2011 4:46PM

Fly Down, Morning Line form one-two punch for Zito in Donn

Barbara D. Livingston
Morning Line (above), second in the BC Dirt Mile, and Fly Down will repesent trainer Nick Zito in Saturday's Donn Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After knocking off the first major jewel on the road to this year’s Florida Derby here Sunday with Dialed In’s victory in the Grade 3 Holy Bull, trainer Nick Zito will try to come right back and grab the most coveted prize for older horses to be given away here at Gulfstream Park this winter when he sends out Fly Down and Morning Line on Saturday in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Fly Down and Morning Line are two of the seven or eight older horses expected when entries are drawn for the 1 1/8-mile Donn on Wednesday

Fly Down will be making his first start since finishing third behind Eclipse Award winners Blame and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is the starting highweight under 122 pounds.

Morning Line, another star on Breeders’ Cup Day with his narrow miss to Dakota Phone in the Dirt Mile, is next in line at the weights along with Rule at 119 pounds. Others expected to compete in the Donn include Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer (118), Giant Oak(118), I Want Revenge(117), and Square Eddie (116).

Square Eddie flew in from the West Coast and arrived here safely on Sunday afternoon.

The Donn is one of two Grade 1 races for older horses on the 2011 stakes schedule, along with the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, both of which will be decided on Saturday.

Battle of Hastings and Blues Street are expected to share high weight of 120 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Turf, which may draw a field of no more than eight or nine starters. Others expected to go include Get Stormy (119), Twilight Meteor (117), Little Mike (116), one or both of trainer Patrick Biancone’s pair of Never On Sunday (117) and the South American-bred filly Belle Watling (116), and likely one of two trainer Mike Maker’s duo of 2009 Breeders’ Cup winner Furthest Land (116) and William’s Kitten (113).

Jackson Bend rejoins Gold for now

While Zito obviously holds a strong hand in the older handicap division, he will be without Jackson Bend, third place finisher in the 2010 Preakness, at least for the time being-

Robert LaPenta bought the majority interest in Jackson Bend from owner-breeder Fred Brie and turned him over to Zito during the fall of his 2-year-old campaign. But now Jackson Bend has returned to his original roots at Calder, where he’s back in the barn of his former trainer, Stanley Gold.

“It’s not really a big deal,” Gold said. “He had a hard campaign at 3, went to Fred’s farm to freshen up and all three parties, Mr. LaPenta, Fred ,and Nick Zito, agreed to give me a chance with this horse again.”

Gold said he has had Jackson Bend, whom he sent out to win 5 of 6 starts, including a sweep of the 2009 Florida Stallion series at 2, back in his barn for about a week. Jackson Bend worked a half mile in :50.60 seconds at Calder on Sunday morning.

“It was an easy work and there is really no timetable for him at the present time,” said Gold.

Zito said there is a chance Jackson Bend, who also finished second in the Grade 1 Wood, Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, and Grade 3 Holy Bull at 3 along with his big effort in the Preakness, could return to his barn later this year.

“He’s a Florida-bred so from what I understand the plan is to start him out down here, give him a chance to get his confidence back against some easier competition, and then if all goes well bring him back up north for the summer,” said Zito.

Troubled trip hindered First Dude

Trainer Dale Romans said First Dude came out of his fourth-place finish in Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Classic in good order. First Dude steadied several times around the opening bend of the Classic and never recovered, finishing nearly three lengths behind upset winner Tackleberry as the 4-5 favorite.

“I’m disappointed in his race, he just didn’t get a good trip and I know he’s much better than that,” said Romans. “We’ll just have to regroup and decide where to go with him from here.”

Romans was also looking forward to sending out Little Mike for the first time in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Little Mike was transferred to Romans’s barn from his former trainer Allen Iwinski shortly after his victory in the Grade 3 Ft. Lauderdale earlier in the meet.

“He worked great this morning,” Romans said on Sunday. “He came to me in great shape and there’s not a lot I had to do. He seems to have good cruising speed so I don’t think the added distance on Saturday should be a problem for him.”