12/27/2006 12:00AM

Zito juveniles make a splash at Calder


MIAMI - Nick Zito is well known for numerous outstanding accomplishments during his training career, which ultimately resulted in his election two years ago into the Racing Hall of Fame. But until this past month, Zito was never known as the King of Calder.

Zito has become a dominant factor during the final month of the Tropical at Calder session. He has sent out eight winners from just 23 starters at the meet, and the majority of those victories have come with young, lightly raced juveniles gearing up for their 3-year-old campaigns this winter at Gulfstream Park.

"I've always enjoyed coming over to Calder, and we got down here a little quicker than usual this year," said Zito, whose south Florida stable is based at the Palm Meadows training center this winter. "They've got a great 2-year-old program that really helps out my type of operation. I've brought many horses here over the years who weren't superstars when they arrived but wound up getting to compete in some big races during their 3-year-old campaigns, in part because of the experience they received at Calder."

Zito cited as examples Andromeda's Hero, Hemingway's Key, and Hesanoldsalt. Andromeda's Hero won his maiden making his second career start during the tail end of the 2004 Tropical at Calder session and went on to run in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and finish second behind Afleet Alex five weeks later in the Belmont Stakes. Hemingway's Key followed the same route the following season, also winning his maiden in his second career start at Calder before going on to finish third in the 2006 Preakness. Hesanoldsalt graduated as a 2-year-old here last winter and competed in such prominent races as the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 1 Travers earlier this year.

"Calder is a tremendous place for me, and it's refreshing when you know you can point and train a horse to a specific race and have confidence it's going to fill," said Zito.

Zito's latest crop of 2-year-old winners at Calder includes King Alliance, Striking Tomisue, The Luckiest, and the extremely promising Forefathers, who is 2 for 2 since arriving in this country from England late this summer. Forefathers, a son of Gone West, has registered both of those victories at Calder, including an easy entry-level allowance win on Tuesday in which he dominated his competition despite racing a bit greenly through the stretch and being eased to the wire.

"Obviously we'll still have to see what happens and find out if they can step up when we get to Gulfstream," said Zito. "This is like a three-step process for these horses. The first round comes at Calder, the second at Gulfstream where the competition gets tougher, and the third round comes when they head up north during the spring."

Tropical Derby hopefuls work

Rutledge Cat and Sedgefield, among the nominees for the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day, were on the work tab at Palm Meadows on Wednesday, both going five furlongs over the turf course at the Boynton Beach training facility.

Rutledge Cat, who finished second over a yielding course in the Laurel Futurity on Nov. 25, breezed five furlongs in 1:05.80 around the dogs, the fastest of 15 recorded works at the distance on Wednesday's tab. Sedgefield, whose only victory in three starts came over the Polytrack at Turfway Park, went five-eighths in 1:07.

Keyed Entry, who set the pace in this year's Kentucky Derby but has been idle since finishing a tiring sixth in the Grade 2 Dwyer on July 4, worked three furlongs in 37.40 at Palm Meadows on Wednesday. The work was the second for Keyed Entry since he returned to training earlier this fall.

Keyed Entry registered his most noteworthy victory when he upset First Samurai to capture Gulfstream Park's Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes in February.