04/30/2009 12:00AM

Zito sends coupled entry in Tesio


Trainer Nick Zito has done pretty well with 3-year-olds he has brought to Pimlico for stakes after they proved to be a cut below colts on the Triple Crown trail.

Zito won back-to-back runnings of the Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard, with Royal Assault and Pinpoint in 2004 and 2005. A year later, the Zito-trained Little Cliff finished third in the Sir Barton after finishing far back in the Blue Grass Stakes.

So handicappers with a sense of history ought to take a long look at Florida Derby also-ran Toby the Coal Man, part of a coupled entry with last-out maiden winner Miner's Escape, in Saturday's $75,000 Federico Tesio at Pimlico.

The 1 1/8-mile Tesio, usually held the third weekend in April, frequently produces at least one starter for the Preakness, including third-place finisher Icabad Crane last year.

Zito apparently thought highly enough of Toby the Coal Man after he won his maiden in his sixth career start that he jumped him all the way up to the Grade 1 level for the Florida Derby. Toby the Coal Man, one of four Triple Crown nominees in the eight-horse Tesio field, was competitive for six furlongs before fading to last of seven.

His chief rivals in the Tesio include The Prince, who responded with a career-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure when stretched out to two turns for the first time; Tone It Down, who steps up to face stakes company for the first time after back-to-back solid efforts at Laurel Park; and Rule of Motion, who crushed first-level allowance foes at Philadelphia Park by more than eight lengths last time out.

The Prince, based in New York with trainer Tony Dutrow, may not have beaten much in his two-turn debut. The four horses he beat that day have come back to run fifth, sixth, or seventh.

Tone It Down may be ready to move forward after essentially pairing up Beyers of 87 and 85.

Rule of Motion is trained by John Servis, who last year also ran a Philadelphia Park allowance winner in the Tesio, Indian Jump, who finished eighth.