02/24/2008 12:00AM

War Pass cruises in seasonal debut


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - War Pass, last year’s champion 2-year-old male, won his 3-year-old debut as easily as it looked he would on paper, cruising to a 7 1/2-length victory in a $60,000 allowance race on Sunday at Gulfstream Park. The victory completed a sensational half-hour for his trainer, Nick Zito, who won the Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes one race earlier with Cool Coal Man.

War Pass was making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile nearly four months ago. Five horses were entered against him - one scratched - but the competition was weak. He was sent off the heavy 1-20 favorite, and there was no show betting.

As is his custom, War Pass broke sharply from the gate and went right to the lead under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who wisely kept War Pass off the the slower inside rail. War Pass set fractions of 23.94 seconds, 46.72 seconds, 1:11.90, and 1:24.06 en route to final time of 1:36.38 for the one-turn mile.

Web Gem, a Zito-trained stablemate, finished second, 16 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Chadwell.

“It’s a lot easier talking now, when everything’s done,” Zito said. “You still have anxiety when a horse hasn’t run. When he came into the paddock, he was so calm. I thought, ‘What is he so calm about?’ I was so nervous.”

War Pass, a colt by Cherokee Run, has won all five of his starts. He is owned by Will Farish’s Lane’s End Farm and Robert LaPenta.

Zito said War Pass will make his next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 15. After that, Zito said, he would run in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5, his final prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.