Updated on 09/16/2011 8:49AM

Before Sunshine, a Queens County pit stop


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - On a snowy day in the Northeast, it certainly wasn't difficult to dream about a getaway to sunny south Florida.

After he runs in Saturday's $100,000 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct, Nothing Flat will head to Florida, where trainer Nick Zito will point him to the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park. The Sunshine Millions is a creation of Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment and is a series of races that pits Florida-breds versus California-breds at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita on Jan. 25.

In the Grade 3 Queens County, Nothing Flat, a Florida-bred son of Peaks and Valleys, will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 28. While the Queens County wasn't Zito's first choice of spots to run in, it certainly fits nicely into the 3-year-old colt's program.

Zito wanted to run Nothing Flat in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but Nothing Flat came up with a temperature and was not even pre-entered. Zito then thought about running in the Cigar Mile, but Bill Condren, who owns the horse with Michael Sherman, talked him out of that.

"Mr. Condren said, 'Let's be realistic, Congaree is in there, it's a real fast race, let's take the easy route,' " Zito said Thursday from Ocala. "Though, I don't know how easy it's going to be. Jimmy Jerkens's horse [Snake Mountain] is a real nice horse."

Though Nothing Flat is only 2 for 10 in his career, he has put in some solid efforts versus top-notch company. He made up six lengths of a 6 1/2-length deficit in the final furlong to finish second behind Gygistar in the Grade 2 Dwyer. After an inexplicably bad performance in the Jim Dandy, Nothing Flat finished third in the Travers behind Medaglia d'Oro and Repent.

In the Gold Cup, Nothing Flat was saddled with post 7 in the eight-horse field, and had a wide trip. Still, he was beaten only a nose for third by multiple Grade 1 winner Harlan's Holiday, and 3 1/2 lengths by Evening Attire for the whole thing.

"A little break here and there he could have won it," Zito said. "He had to go wide. If he had an inside post, he would have been right there."

Zito has named apprentice John McKee to ride Nothing Flat in the Queens County even though McKee will not be able to take advantage of his five-pound weight allowance because this is a stakes race. Zito watched McKee ride all fall at Churchill and has the highest praise for the 21-year-old who has moved his tack to New York for the winter.

"If he's not the next Willie Shoemaker, I don't know who is," Zito said. "He gets so much run out of horses, it's unbelievable. If everything stays good and the kid stays healthy, New York's in for a real treat this winter."

Perkins forgoes Florida

Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. usually splits his stable between New York and Florida in the winter. This year, Perkins will split his stable between New York and Maryland.

"We decided against Gulfstream," Perkins said. "It's easier to keep track where they're all at this way. The turf horses, we just put them away."

Perkins has 22 horses stabled at Belmont and will use the Aqueduct meet to bring back such promising young horses as Unforgettable Max, Wild Snitch, and Wildcat Heir.

Unforgettable Max, who won his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths at Monmouth in August, worked four furlongs from the gate in 48:07 seconds Thursday over the training track, equaling the fastest of 59 moves at the distance.

Wild Snitch, who won the Sorority and finished second to Storm Flag Flying in the Grade 1 Matron, is getting a freshening and will likely return in mid-January. Same goes for Wildcat Heir, who hasn't been out since finishing second as the favorite in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga in July.

Affirmed Success a month away

Affirmed Success, the multiple Grade 1 winning gelding who hasn't raced since July, was credited with a half-mile workout in 48.07 seconds Thursday over Belmont Park's training track. It equaled the fastest of 59 moves at the distance.

It was only his second workout since rejoining trainer Richard Schosberg's barn in October. Affirmed Success breezed three furlongs in 37.12 seconds on Nov. 8, but came out of that work with a bruised foot, which forced him to miss almost two weeks of training.

"He couldn't even go to the track," Schosberg said. "He looks pretty good now. He went great, he looked super."

Schosberg said he hopes to get Affirmed Success back to the races next month when he will be a 9-year-old. A potential target is the Paumonok Handicap on Jan. 25.

"With him, four good works is all he'll need, so if everything goes we're probably looking at mid-January," Schosberg said.

- Dat You Miz Blue, the multiple stakes winning New York-bred mare, worked four furlongs in 51.74 seconds Thursday over Belmont's training track. She may make her next start in the $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap here on Dec. 14, according to trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Xtra Heat, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, is also pointing to that race.