Updated on 09/18/2011 12:34AM

Hesanoldsalt may revive Zito's slim Derby hopes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A year ago, Nick Zito was like the 1991-92 Michigan men's basketball team when he brought the Fab Five to the Kentucky Derby. This year, Zito is more like Syracuse, perched on the bubble and needing a mini-miracle to make the Big Dance.

"I got to get a Gerry McNamara shot and I'm back in the game,'' said Zito, referring to the Syracuse guard who virtually single-handedly shot Syracuse from the NCAA Tournament bubble to the Big East Tournament championship and a No. 5 seed in the Atlanta region.

Zito will be taking two shots in Derby preps this weekend. He will run Little Cliff in the Tampa Bay Derby and Hesanoldsalt in the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham at Aqueduct.

Hesanoldsalt, a son of Broad Brush owned and bred by Live Oak Plantation, may be Zito's best hope. He had two wins, a second, and a third from four starts before finishing a distant sixth behind Bluegrass Cat in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Hesanoldsalt wouldn't be the first horse based at Gulfstream Park who didn't fare well at Tampa.

"That's what I'm hanging my hat on," said Zito, who won the 1990 Gotham with Thirty Six Red. "He acts like a colt that's come back fine.''

What Zito likes about Hesanoldsalt is that he has run well against good company. In his debut, he finished third behind Lawyer Ron, who has won several stakes and will be favored in the Rebel on Saturday at Oaklawn. In winning an allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 15, Hesanoldsalt beat Sunriver, who has since come back to win an allowance at Gulfstream and is being pointed to the Florida Derby.

"I love a horse that runs with good horses," Zito said. "He ran with Lawyer Ron; he came back and ran with Sunriver; he's run with Bluegrass Cat.''

Hesanoldsalt, a full brother to Donn Handicap winner Mongoose, is a closer who should benefit from an expected fast pace in the Gotham. Zito has tabbed Norberto Arroyo Jr. to ride.

The Gotham picked up a 10th starter on Wednesday when trainer Martin Venburg confirmed that Eagle Head would run. He joins a field that is expected to include Achilles of Troy, Greeley's Legacy, Hesanoldsalt, Keyed Entry, Like Now, One Way Flight, Putonyerdancinshuz, Sunshine Alpine, and Sweetnorthernsaint.

Outside post could knock out 'Troy'

While Ernie Paragallo welcomes the increased competition for his promising 3-year-old Achilles of Troy in Saturday's Gotham, he said he would strongly consider scratching the horse should he draw the outside post in the two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race.

"The only thing that concerns me is post position,'' said Paragallo, who is the authorized agent for Paraneck. "[If] I draw 10 I'm probably not running. I'll go to the Lane's End the next week. I did the same thing with New York Hero.''

In 2003, the last time the Gotham was run around two turns, New York Hero won the Lane's End a week after scratching out of the Gotham.

Though Achilles of Troy likes to come from off the pace, Paragallo knows his horse will break well and could be carried out entering the first turn.

"If I got four or five sprinters inside of me and I'm in the 10 post, I'm dead,'' Paragallo said. "My horse is going to break good. I'm not telling Ramon [Dominguez] to grab him coming out of the gate; you can't do that, you've got to let him run. A mile and a sixteenth, he's going to be running into that turn. I'm going to be five, six, seven wide.

"I'm not saying he can't win doing that anyway, but it's going to take too much out of him.''

Six likely for Cicada

Celestial Legend, unbeaten in six career starts, heads what is likely to be a six-horse field for Saturday's co-feature, the Grade 3, $100,000 Cicada Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Celestial Legend will be cutting back to six furlongs after winning the one-mile Wide Country Stakes by a nose last out. The Cicada will mark her graded-stakes debut.

Those scheduled to oppose Celestial Legend are All Bets Down, Ring True, Swap Fliparoo, Spenny, and Wild Gams. Summer Cruise, a winner of two of her starts by a combined 15 1/2 lengths, is possible.

Vasa heads Karakorum Splendor

Vasa, the runner-up to Ring True in last month's Dearly Precious Stakes, was nominated to the Cicada. However, her connections appear to have found a softer spot in Friday's $60,000 Karakorum Splendor Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

, a daughter of City Zip, has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts. She is coming off runner-up performances in the Oxford Scholar and Dearly Precious. Prior to that she won a statebred allowance race by a nose.

In her only bad performance, Vasa finished fifth in the Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes over Aqueduct's main track. Trainer Richard Stoklosa said that race wasn't as bad as it looked.

"She had a horse outside of her and that pushed her in, and she got behind two speed horses and dirt hit her in the face and she just threw her head up in the air,'' Stoklosa said. "She dropped all the way back next to last and she made up ground down the lane. I was more happy with her last race because she learned to rate a little bit rather than being all speed.''

, Stand by the Phone, and How 'bout No finished one-two-three in a Feb. 5 entry-level allowance race for New York-breds and are all back in this heat. How 'bout No came back out of that race to win a statebred allowance at a mile and 70 yards on Feb. 9.

and Wicked Sorceress complete the field.