03/10/2005 12:00AM

One more Zito gem

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River Downs
Bellamy Road, a graded stakes winner at 2, makes his first start for trainer Nick Zito in a one-mile allowance race Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Kentucky Derby trail may be rolling directly through New Orleans this weekend but a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday could yield one or more future Derby candidates, including another promising 3-year-old from trainer Nick Zito's barn.

Bellamy Road was an easy winner of his first two starts at 2, including the Grade 3 Cradle Stakes at River Downs, before closing out the campaign finishing a tiring seventh after setting the early pace in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity. A son of Concerto, Bellamy Road began his career with trainer Michael Dickinson but was switched to Zito's care earlier this winter.

"I got him two months ago, he's training brilliantly, and a one-turn mile is a good spot to bring him back," said Zito, who trains Bellamy Road for George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable.

When asked if it was too late to put Bellamy Road on the Derby trail along with his other top 3-year-old prospects - which include High Fly and Sun King - Zito did not entirely rule out the possibility.

"If he were to have a great race on Saturday I would recommend we go somewhere with him," said Zito.

Trainer Rick Violette, who will be at Fair Grounds on Saturday to saddle Wallstreet Scandal in the Louisiana Derby, sends out Dearest Mon, who will likely vie for favoritism with Bellamy Road in the one-mile allowance race. Violette scratched Dearest Mon from last Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes because he feared his horse's chances would be compromised by an outside post.

Dearest Mon was an impressive allowance winner here earlier in the meet but finished a well-beaten fifth following a slow start in the Holy Bull Stakes.

"I'm just throwing out the Holy Bull and hoping he'll run back to his previous two races," said Violette. "He's trained great since that race and the one-turn mile should be good for him, although I still think he'll go two turns."

Violette said Dearest Mon could be a candidate for the Grade 1 Florida Derby with a big effort on Saturday.

Proud Accolade resumes training

Trainer Todd Pletcher reported that Proud Accolade, who was forced to miss his scheduled start in the Louisiana Derby after contracting a fever over the weekend, is back in training but that his plans remain uncertain.

"He was back under tack this morning," Pletcher said Thursday. "Everything is day to day with him for now and I'm not ruling anything out, although I don't think I'll be able to make the Gotham with him on the 19th."

The one-mile Gotham will be run next weekend at Aqueduct.

Horsemen ponder future at Calder

The news that a referendum that could have legalized slot machines at Calder Race Course was defeated on Tuesday has dealt a severe blow to horsemen stabled in south Florida on a year-round basis. None more so than Calder's perennial leading trainer, Bill White.

"Obviously, this is a major disappointment for all of us who race here year round," White said. "This referendum was our last big chance to turn racing around at Calder and make the purse structure competitive with the tracks up north. It's already been well documented how difficult it's been getting and keeping quality horses down here during the summer due to the current purse structure, and this is going to make things even tougher."

White, who launched the careers of but then lost such notable stakes winners as High Fly and Magoo's Magic, said the question remains what alternatives Calder horsemen will have in the future.

"My feel after talking to people back here is that for the most part this was a sudden and surprising event and everyone is going to sit, wait and see where the dust settles for the time being," said White. "Some of the stronger stables have several options, including relocating permanently, which most of us do not want to do, or splitting the stable and getting a foothold into some of the better Northern jurisdictions. We can also wait and see how things shake out at Gulfstream if they do get the slots, although I fear the governor might step up aggressively in Tallahassee and do his best to water down the legislation where Broward County won't have a good deal itself."

White said he and most Calder-based horseman would love to stay loyal to their home track but that their first obligation is to themselves, their families, and their owners.

"Ultimately we have to do what it takes to survive, and even though our business loyalties are certainly with Calder, we may have no choice but to race where the money is good enough to keep ourselves in the game," said White.

* Man Made, who won Thursday's fourth race under jockey Jorge Chavez, is owned by Lucille Stephens, the widow of Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens. Man Made is trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. Racing under a $25,000 claiming tag and with Lasix for the first time, Man Made rallied from just off the pace and won going away in just his second career start.