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Zito to send out Little Cliff in Aventura
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Nick Zito nominated two of his 3-year-olds to Saturday's Aventura Stakes but will start only one, Little Cliff, owned by Robert LaPenta.
"He's already had two distance races and has got the best foundation of any of my 3-year-olds right now," Zito explained. "I also nominated Superfly to the race, but he had a tough 2-year-old campaign and I think I'd like to wait and start him back sometime in February."
will bring a two-race win streak into the one-mile Aventura, both victories coming since Zito stretched him out around two turns in Kentucky during the latter part of his 2-year-old campaign.
Superfly has not started since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he finished fifth after dropping to the rear of the pack during the early stages. He was also a distant third behind First Samurai in the Grade 1 Champagne after winning Delaware's Whirling Ash Stakes.
Zito has several other lightly raced but promising 3-year-olds ready to run here early in the meet, including the undefeated Fabled, who could start in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance dash on Jan. 14. That race serves as a prep for the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 4.
"He bucked shins after winning his first start going 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga in August, and then came back and had the worst trip humanly possible winning his next start in November," Zito said of Fabled. "They absolutely mugged him in that race. He just doesn't have the foundation under him right now to bring him back in a race like the Aventura. Remember, it's only January, not May. We have to start somewhere with these horses, and I'm in no hurry.
"As far as I'm concerned, these races in January are only preliminaries, not preps for the bigger stakes later in the meet," Zito added. "I'm glad we're in the position we're in, but for now you've still got to be cautious. We'll know soon enough if we go home or go on."
Zito is also loaded with top-caliber older horses, including Seek Gold, who will run Saturday in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap, and Bellamy Road, the Kentucky Derby favorite, who is expected to arrive soon at the Palm Meadows training center from owner George Steinbrenner's farm in Ocala, Fla.
"I went up to see Bellamy Road earlier this week and he looks fabulous," said Zito. "I love what I see. They've done a great job with him up at George's place. He'll come to Palm Meadows pretty soon, but we'll take our time with him. It's a long year."
Zito also has Sun King, Noble Causeway, Sir Shackleton, Andromeda's Hero, and Commentator in training either at Gulfstream or Palm Meadows. Zito also noted that Rafael Bejarano, who will be aboard Little Cliff in the Aventura, will ride "90 percent" of his horses here this winter.
Maker juggles stable and family
You might say Becky Maker is fairly busy these days. Now in her fourth year as a trainer, she brought 11 horses to Palm Meadows this week while keeping another 24 at Turfway Park on her home Kentucky circuit.
Horses aren't the only thing Maker brought south: She also brought her infant son, Case, who was born Nov. 24.
Case's father, Jason Besilets, is not only Maker's husband but also her assistant and business partner.
"If we get three straight hours of sleep, we're happy," said Maker.
After leaving Michigan, where she worked with show horses, Maker, 33, worked as an exercise rider for about five years each for D. Wayne Lukas and Dallas Stewart before going out on her own in 2002. Her profile within the industry has steadily increased, and she enjoyed her most productive year in 2005 when the stable won 39 races and earned $1,006,094.
Although she previously has wintered in Florida for Lukas and Stewart, this is the first year Maker has brought her own stable here. She said she will spend the next several months shuttling between Florida and Kentucky while also caring for Case, her first child.
"It makes your life pretty crazy, but he's great," she said. "You've got to have a lot of good people working for you, and fortunately we do."
Big field possible for Ft. Lauderdale
Gulfstream officials are expecting a medium to large field of older horses for Sunday's feature, the $75,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Among the known prospects are Honor in War, L'Oiseau d'Argent, Remind, Watchmon, and Wire Bound.
Honor in War enters in terrific form after winning two straight high-end allowance races on the Kentucky circuit. L'Oiseau d'Argent is owned by the family of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who died suddenly Wednesday in Australia at age 62.
Bravo cracks two vertebrae in spill
Jockey Joe Bravo cracked two vertebrae in his back when he was tossed to the ground after Bay Marvel broke down during the running of the second race here Wednesday.
According to his agent, Danny Mellul, Bravo will be moved from Hollywood Memorial Hospital to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he will remain for at least the next seven to 10 days.
Toledo, 18, joins jockey colony
Elias Toledo is the newest member of the local riding colony. Toledo, 18, was one of the top riders in his native Chile, where he won more than 200 races during his first two years in the saddle.
His local engagements will be handled handled by veteran agent Steve Adika.
In memory of Umphrey
The family of Calder racing secretary Bob Umphrey, who died after suffering a massive heart attack on Sunday, requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Umphrey's memory to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Information can be found at www.trfinc.org.
A memorial service celebrating Umphrey's life will be held on the fourth floor at Calder Race Course at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4.
* Jockey Eddie Castro will be at Louisiana Downs on Saturday to ride West Virginia for trainer Todd Pletcher in the New Orleans Handicap. He'll return Sunday and is expected to be aboard the multiple stakes winner Keep Cool for trainer Carl Anderson in the Ft. Lauderdale.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee