Updated on 09/17/2011 11:09AM

Zito first-time starters gain new rep


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In the past, betting on trainer Nick Zito's first-time starters at Saratoga was a sure way to the poor house. According to Jim Mazur's "Saratoga Handicapper," Zito entered the 2003 Spa meeting having won with just one of his last 52 maiden firsters.

The times, they are a changing.

When Aladdin's Lamp lit up the board ($24.20) in Wednesday's second race at Saratoga, Zito had won with his second first-time starter at the meet. Zito says he's not done yet.

"It won't be the last time we win with these first-time starters," Zito said Thursday morning. "This thing will change now."

Zito said he has changed his philosophy when it comes to his 2-year-olds, running them earlier at shorter distances where their speed may be more effective.

"I treated every single one like they were Derby, Preakness, or Belmont Stakes horses," said Zito, who has recorded four of his five wins at this meet with 2-year-olds. "Now I take a different approach. My approach now is they all can't be those type of horses. It's a new breed of cat training horses today. It's called the 21st century. It's called instant success. Now I'll show them I can adjust to anything."

Aladdin's Lamp, a son of 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, is a New York-bred who was pinched back at the start and was well back before rallying seven wide in the stretch and rolling to a 3 1/2-length victory. Zito has many options with Aladdin's Lamp, including a series of New York-bred stakes at Belmont and Aqueduct in the fall.

Last Saturday, Zito saddled Birdstone, a half-brother to Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner Bird Town, to a 12 1/2-length victory at first asking. Birdstone earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure and is likely to make his next start in the Grade 1 Hopeful on Aug. 30.

"I definitely think Derby with Birdstone," Zito said.

Traditionally, Zito's 2-year-olds improve second time out. Such was the case with El Prado Rob, who finished fourth in his debut but came back to win his maiden by a neck on July 23. El Prado Rob is expected to make his next start in Wednesday's Grade 2, $150,000 Saratoga Special.

Zito's Dixie Waltz, who won her maiden in her second start at Belmont, won an entry-level allowance race here on July 30 and is being pointed to the Grade 1 Spinaway on Aug. 31.

Anofferucantrefuse wins Smithwick

Anofferucantrefuse took control after the first hurdle and led his five challengers on a merry 2 1/16-mile jaunt over nine fences on the inner turf course as he won the Grade 2, $81,300 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase by 4 1/2 lengths.

Praise the Prince, the 2001 Smithwick winner, rallied for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Tres Touche. It was the second straight victory for Anofferucantrefuse and fifth in 13 career steeplechase races. He finished fourth in this race last year.

Trainer Tom Voss was a little concerned about the soft turf course, but it didn't seem to bother Anofferucantrefuse, who covered the 2 1/16 miles in 3:51.00 under Cyril Murphy, who won his third of four steeplechase races at this meet. He returned $11.40.

"We thought about scratching him, but there was no other place for him to run," Voss said. "He went through the soft going pretty easily today. He's always had good races in him, it's just getting them to come forward."

Anofferucantrefuse will run next in the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap Aug. 28.

Mike's Classic bred to be quick

Trainer Allen Jerkens always had high hopes for Mike's Classic, given his impeccable breeding. In his last two starts, Mike's Classic has shown that he indeed could be a top-flight sprinter. On Sunday, Mike's Classic will get his sternest test yet, when he faces leading sprinter Shake You Down and six others in the Grade 2, $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.

Mike's Classic is by Seeking the Gold out of the mare Classy Mirage, a filly Jerkens trained to multiple stakes victories, including the Honorable Miss and Ballerina over this track.

Mike's Classic has won five of his 11 starts, but has really excelled in his last two efforts, earning Beyer Figures of 108 and 109, in allowance races at Belmont.

"He seems to be more solid-looking than he used to be," Jerkens said. "For a while, it looked like he weakened too easily."

Jerkens said Mike's Classic last two races "have been very pleasantly surprising to me, which is why we're going to take a shot in there."

Ray Ganpath has ridden Mike's Classic in nine of his 11 starts and will have the call on Sunday.

Day recalls 2002 Sword Dancer

Pat Day has won 8,511 races in his career. But only a handful are more memorable than last year's Sword Dancer victory With Anticipation.

Day needed to finish first or second in the Sword Dancer to surpass Chris McCarron as the all-time leading rider in purse money won. But, a second-place finish just wouldn't have been appropriate.

Turning for home, Denon shot through an opening on the rail while Day and With Anticipation were forced to rally four wide. In midstretch, Denon looked like a sure winner, but With Anticipation somehow found more and got there by a head.

"We came off the turn and I seemingly left him a little too much to do and not enough time, but he showed tremendous courage and desire in the stretch," Day said. He switched over to his left lead 40 yards out and it seemed like he lunged to the wire."

The victory gave Day career earnings of $264,580,725. In the past year, Day has increased his record to $289,257,680.

"Obviously, if we ran second we were going to over the top, but that was secondary," Day said. "Just the way he did it is what horse racing is all about. That's why we love these creatures so much, they're poetry in motion. When they show that desire it's most exhilarating."

This year, With Anticipation has not regained his previous form. He has finished last in his two most recent outings, and is likely to catch soft turf, which he does not like, on Saturday.

Lakow announces distance changes

Racing secretary Mike Lakow announced on Thursday that races for older horses scheduled to be run on the turf at one mile will be shortened to seven furlongs rather than lengthened to nine furlongs in the event the race has to be run on dirt.

"I am hoping that this will hold more horses in the race," Lakow said. "A lot of these horses running at a mile are stretching-out sprinters. Most of them would rather run one turn instead of stretching out to a mile and an eighth going two turns."

Last year, Lakow announced that turf races for older horses scheduled to be run from 1 1/16 miles to 1 3/8 miles would be run at nine furlongs on dirt. Turf races carded for 1 1/2 miles or farther on turf, would be run at 1 3/16 miles on dirt.

Limehouse, Heckle work for Special

Limehouse and Heckle, a pair of stakes-winning juveniles from Todd Pletcher, worked five furlongs in company Thursday morning in 1:01 over a muddy main track. Limehouse, who won the Bashford Manor and Three Chimneys Juvenile, is considered definite for Wednesday's Grade 2, $150,000 Saratoga Special. Heckle is listed as probable by trainer Todd Pletcher.

Meanwhile, Pletcher said Value Plus, a most impressive maiden winner earlier in the meet, will not run in the Saratoga Special. Pletcher said Value Plus would either run in the Grade 1 Hopeful on Aug. 30 or the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 14.

Pletcher won two more races on Thursday's card, making it the eighth time in 14 racing days he has won at least two races on a single card. Pletcher now has 20 wins - one more than he had last year when he won the meet title - and four shy of Syl Veitch's record 24 set in 1954.

John Velazquez rode both of Pletcher's winners as part of a four-win day. He is now tied with Jerry Bailey atop the rider standings with 26 wins.