01/28/2008 12:00AM

Two more hot Zito prospects


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Nick Zito's list of potential Kentucky Derby prospects, which seemingly grows by the hour, figures to expand once again following Wednesday's $41,500 feature at Gulfstream Park.

Zito will send out likely favorite Stevil and top contender Web Gem as an entry for owner Robert LaPenta in a one-mile first-level allowance that drew a field of eight 3-year-olds.

Stevil has improved with every start. A son of Maria's Mon, Stevil captured his career debut by a half-length despite the fact his rider lost his stick during the stretch run of the 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Belmont Park. Stevil concluded his 2-year-old campaign by finishing a wide-running fourth behind Eaton's Gift going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs.

Stevil was second behind trainer Michael Matz's top 3-year-old prospect Visionaire after being forced to fan very wide into the stretch when sent a mile in his 3-year-old debut here on Jan. 4.

"He didn't have a favorable trip but he ran a tremendous race," said Zito.

Web Gem missed his first scheduled start as a 3-year-old nearly two weeks ago when a seven-furlong allowance was canceled because of a power outage. A son of Fusaichi Pegasus who has already won at a mile, Web Gem will have blinkers removed on Wednesday.

"He's doing well and is a different horse now, which is why I'm taking the blinkers off," explained Zito. "Fusaichi Pegasuses can be difficult to handle, but he's much more relaxed and got a good schooling when forced to stay in the paddock so long due to the power outage a couple of weeks ago."

Another son of Fusaichi Pegasus, Mythical Pegasus, could provide the Zito duo with their stiffest challenge. Mythical Pegasus finished third, a length behind Stevil, when he launched his 3-year-old campaign earlier this month, and is the only graded-stakes-placed member of this field, thanks to a third in Belmont's Grade 2 Futurity.

Nistle's Crunch makes his first start on conventional dirt after beginning his career on Polytrack and grass. Nistle's Crunch is already a proven commodity going a distance of ground, having won his maiden going 1 1/8 miles last fall at Keeneland. He was also a late-running third on turf in Santa Anita's Eddie Logan Stakes to close out his 2-year-old season.

New Believer, Heaven's Awesome, Face the Cat, and Broken N Smokin complete the field.