Updated on 09/17/2011 5:48PM

Zito believes Juvenile jinx won't affect Sun King


The curse of the Bambino was lifted when the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the playoffs. Can the end of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile jinx be far behind?

No winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile has come back the following spring to win the Kentucky Derby. It is only a 20-year sampling, and only 11 Juvenile winners have even run in the Derby. Moreover, three horses that competed in the Juvenile but didn't win won the next year's Derby.

Nick Zito, a two-time Derby winner, has often cited the Juvenile-Derby jinx, leading to the perception that he doesn't like running horses in the Juvenile. But, in fact, six of Zito's 21 Breeders' Cup starters have come in the Juvenile, most recently A P Valentine in 2000.

Zito is back in the Juvenile this year with Sun King, a son of 1999 Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic who seems to be getting better with every start. Zito said he believes running in the Juvenile will actually help Sun King in preparing him for his 3-year-old season.

"It's a very, very tough obstacle for young horses," Zito said of the Juvenile "It's like the Derby; you have to have the horse. In this case, it won't hurt Sun King. I think it'll help Sun King in his development whether he wins it or not. I'm looking forward to next week, and I'm also looking forward to next year."

Last year, Zito won two of the major Juvenile prep races when Eurosilver took the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and Birdstone won the Champagne at Belmont on the same day. Eurosilver bucked shins and was forced to miss the Juvenile. Owner Marylou Whitney said in the Belmont winner's circle that Birdstone would not run in the Juvenile.

Zito said he would have recommended Birdstone skip the Juvenile as well. Whereas Sun King is a January foal, Birdstone was a May foal. Zito also has fewer reservations about running Sun King in the Juvenile since there are only eight horses in the field.

Sun King came within two lengths of Proud Accolade and Afleet Alex in the Champagne, a race in which Zito said he believes Sun King was taken out of his preferred running style by being too close to the pace.

In the Champagne, Sun King pressed the pace, unlike in his maiden win when he stalked a four-ply speed duel. Zito said he instructed Javier Castellano to take Sun King off the pace in the Champagne, but Sun King broke so sharply that Castellano went on with it.

"He doesn't have to be that far back," Zito said. "On the other hand, he doesn't have to be head and head for the lead."

Zito will make a change to Edgar Prado for the Juvenile.

On Friday, Sun King completed preparations for the Juvenile by working seven furlongs in 1:29.83 over a muddy Oklahoma training track at Saratoga. He was scheduled to ship to Texas on Saturday along with Birdstone, who is running in the Classic.