05/19/2011 10:28AM

Preakness: Zito, Grove form bond that has them rooting for each other

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BALTIMORE – Like every trainer with a horse in the 136th Preakness, Nick Zito and Chris Grove would dearly love to win Saturday at Pimlico with Dialed In and Norman Asbjornson, respectively. But in case they don’t, they can root for each other.

Zito and Grove have formed a bond centered on Grove’s 12-year-old son, Noah, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2004 and underwent a life-saving, through-the-knee amputation. Although Zito has known about Noah’s condition for quite some time, they met for the first time at the Wednesday post-position draw in the Pimlico infield.

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“You look at this young man, standing there, red hair, a beautiful smile,” said Zito. “And you look down and see he has a prosthetic leg. It’s covered with a New Orleans Saints wrap, and I kid him, ‘I’ve got to make you a Giants or Ravens fan, they’re my teams.’ And he says, ‘No, I’ve got the Saints.’

“It was really a big thing for me to see how this kid goes on about his life. He’s an inspiration. It’s all about him. It’s all about the kid.”

The Noah’s Courage Foundation of the Georgetown University Hospital supports children and their families in situations similar to what the Groves have gone through. Zito said he intends to make a contribution to the foundation, and if Dialed In wins Saturday, the donation will be large enough that “the Grove family will be happy, let’s put it that way.”

Chris Grove, who led all trainers on the Maryland circuit last year with 57 victories, said he and his wife, Rachel, have been deeply touched by Zito’s kindness and support.

“If I don’t win, I certainly want Dialed In to win,” said Grove.