08/15/2013 5:18PM

Saratoga: Declan's Warrior has sharp workout for King's Bishop

Barbara D. Livingston
Declan's Warrior breezed a half-mile in 47.32 seconds Thursday in preparation for the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug. 24.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Declan’s Warrior got a little schooling from professors Nick Zito and John Velazquez on Thursday and passed the test with flying colors during an impressive half-mile workout that will serve as his final major prep for the Grade 1 King’s Bishop on Aug. 24.

Declan’s Warrior breezed on the main track in company with stablemate Senor Rice after the renovation break. With Velazquez aboard, Declan’s Warrior broke off about four lengths behind his workmate, chased his partner to the stretch, then readily picked up his target when given his cue, ultimately edging a length clear at the wire after a half-mile in 47.32 seconds. Declan’s Warrior then drew off steadily into the turn, galloping out five furlongs in 59.54.

“That was good; I was really happy about the work and happy that Johnny was on him,” Zito said. “Johnny told my exercise rider to go on with Senor Rice because he wanted to get the dirt in his face. Watching his races, that’s what he wanted to see. So actually, it worked out beautifully because he took the dirt and went as smooth as can be.”

Declan’s Warrior won a pair of stakes this year, including the Grade 3 Bay Shore, before his streak was snapped when he was a late-charging and troubled second behind Forty Tales in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day. But Declan’s Warrior could not duplicate that effort here last month when finishing fifth, once again behind Forty Tales, in the Grade 2 Amsterdam.

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Velazquez will replace Jose Lezcano, who rode Declan’s Warrior in all seven of his previous starts, for the King’s Bishop.

“I’m always happy when I can get Johnny,” Zito said. “He’s won a lot of big races for me. We’ve had a friendship since he was 18, when he worked Strike the Gold. I really can’t put a finger on what happened to Declan’s Warrior last time. I know Jose was trying to stay with Forty Tales, but he got up six lengths on us, and we got beat by 3 1/2 [lengths]. If we’d have been able to stay within three lengths of him, like we did in the Woody Stephens, we’d have been right there again. I don’t really know what happened last time, but I do know I like what I saw today.”