11/06/2002 1:00AM

Right time of year for Zito youth

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Nick Zito is proving that patience is not only a virtue, it's profitable as well.

Since Oct. 9, between Keeneland, Churchill, and Aqueduct, Zito has won 12 races, eight with 2-year-old maidens. After finishing in a tie for second in the Keeneland trainer standings, Zito has five wins at Aqueduct, second only to Richard Dutrow Jr.'s six.

"This time of year our 2-year-olds start coming around," Zito said Wednesday from Churchill Downs before saddling Bird Town, a 2-year-old daughter of Cape Town, to a 6 3/4-length maiden victory. "We've employed great patience, which unfortunately is not the way to go in the 21st century, where it's win now. Fortunately, I have good owners."

Zito ran a bunch of 2-year-olds at Saratoga and was unlucky not to win any maiden races during that 36-day meet. In the last four weeks, Zito has won maiden races with juvenile colts Seek Gold, Devout, and Chinese, and juvenile fillies Little Compton, Feisty Step, Holiday Lady, It's Our Time, and Bird Town.

Feisty Step, a daughter of Coronado's Quest owned by Satish Sanan's Padua Stable, won a one-mile maiden race last Saturday at Aqueduct, and may run back in the Demoiselle on Nov. 30. Following Bird Town's easy win Wednesday, Zito said he might run her back in the Golden Rod at Churchill on Nov. 30.

Seek Gold, a son of Touch Gold, won his maiden in front-running fashion going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct on Oct. 27. Zito immediately flew the colt down to Florida to prepare for his 3-year-old season at Gulfstream. Zito said he might consider shipping him back to New York for the Remsen Stakes if the race comes up light.

"I don't want to kill him," said Zito, who seemed like he was leaning toward an allowance race at the beginning of the Gulfstream meet for Seek Gold.

Zito said he still has several more 2-year-olds to run before year's end, including Cherokee Lite - a daughter of Cherokee Run who has been chasing graded stakes winners Storm Flag Flying and Chimichurri - in Friday's sixth at Aqueduct. One colt Zito is particularly high on is from Padua Stable: Defy Logic, a half-brother to Yes It's True by Saint Ballado, who cost $1.55 million at auction.

"He's a super, super horse," Zito said, giving credit to Sanan and the farm's manager, Randy Bradshaw, for "letting me take my time with him."

Meanwhile, Zito said he is pointing his top 3-year-old, Nothing Flat, the Dwyer runner-up and Travers third-place finisher, to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 30. Zito said he was planning to run Nothing Flat in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but the horse spiked a temperature and missed a week of training.

England's Legend retired

England's Legend, winner of last year's Grade 1 Beverly D., has been retired and will be bred to Kingmambo, according to trainer Christophe Clement.

England's Legend, a 5-year-old daughter of Lure, won six of 13 starts, including last year's Grade 2 New York Handicap and this year's Grade 3 Modesty Handicap, and earned $948,128 for owner Edouard Rothschild.

This year, England's Legend ran just three times, winning the Modesty, finishing third in the Beverly D., and sixth as the even-money favorite in the Flower Bowl. She was diagnosed with an infected jaw after the Flower Bowl.

Clement had considered running her in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf or in the Matriarch on Dec. 1 at Hollywood Park, but opted against it.

"She's sound, but we didn't think she trained as well as she could have so we have decided to retire her," Clement said.

Meanwhile, Clement said Voodoo Dancer, runner-up in Sunday's Las Palmas Handicap, arrived at Payson Park in Florida on Tuesday night. She may run next year though no decision has been made. In 2002, Voodoo Dancer posted a record of 3-3-1 from seven starts. Her four losses came by a combined 2 1/2 lengths, including a nose loss to Tates Creek in the Diana and a neck loss to her in the Las Palmas.

"She might have been the most consistent [turf] filly all year long," Clement said. "Her and Tates Creek will never get the credit because we haven't run in all the Grade 1 races, but they're both very good horses. I would have loved to have won one or two more with her."

Voodoo Dancer has a record of 9-4-1 from 16 starts with earnings of $955,588.

True Direction in Fall Highweight prep

True Direction, a solid 3-year-old sprinter, faces a tough test Friday in a $56,000 classified allowance race that drew veteran older stakes-winning sprinters Say Florida Sandy and Vodka.

True Direction, who is 4 for 6 including a victory in the Hirsch Jacobs, is coming off a 1 1/4-length victory in a third-level allowance win at Belmont on Sept. 19. Following a subsequent workout by True Direction, trainer Carlos Morales found a minor problem and gave the colt a few weeks off. True Direction had previously been off for three months following a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge.

"In both races at Belmont, where the turns are wider, he switched leads before the stretch and he came back a little bit uncomfortable behind," Morales said.

Morales said he was really happy the way True Direction breezed five furlongs in 1:01 on Oct. 30 and said should the horse run well Friday, he could wheel back in the Fall Highweight Handicap on Nov. 28.

Say Florida Sandy, the richest New York-bred in history with $1.9 million in earnings, makes his 90th career start in Friday's six-furlong race. By facing open company and having not won since July, Say Florida Sandy must carry only 116 pounds, five fewer than True Direction. Say Florida Sandy comes out of a fourth-place finish In the Hudson Handicap, where he carried top weight of 123 pounds.

Tom's Thunder and Vodka, the second- and third-place finishers from the Hudson, are also entered in this spot.