10/22/2008 12:00AM

Zito taking multiple shots


Trainer Nick Zito has stacked the odds in his favor by entering three horses in Friday night's Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands.

In his quest to win the $200,000 Pegasus for 3-year-olds for the second time since 2004, Zito has put together a coupled entry of the speedy Coal Play, Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara, and deep closer Truth Rules.

Of that trio, Coal Play looks to be the most dangerous. He has paired up 103 Beyer Speed Figures running second to Big Brown in the Grade 1 Haskell and dominating three rivals over a muddy track in the listed Majestic Prince. Both those races were at Monmouth Park.

Da' Tara has been badly beaten in all three of his starts since his shocking 38-1 upset of the Belmont in June. The co-highweight at 123 pounds, Da' Tara will be coming back 19 days after flashing speed and fading to next-to-last in the Grade 2 Jerome at Belmont Park.

Since Da' Tara and Coal Play do their best running on the front end and Joe Bravo has been named to ride to both horses, it seems logical that Zito might scratch one, although the racing rules in New Jersey permit him to name an alternate rider on race night and run both.

Truth Rules needed eight starts to win his maiden, then captured two more races in a row, the last the $150,000 Long Branch in mid-July. He failed to fire when he returned from a two-month layoff in last month's Step Nicely at Belmont.

The Bill Mott-trained You and I Forever, second in the Jerome, and Ready Set, winner of the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, are the biggest threats to Zito's entry.

You and I Forever has registered triple-digit Beyers in two of his last three starts, but is coming back on relatively short rest. According to DRF's Formulator, Mott is just 1 for 15 with horses returning in 20 days or less in graded stakes on dirt the last five years

Ready Set, trained by Michael Matz, ran well during the summer in back-to-back starts in the Grade 3 Barbaro at Delaware Park and the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer, but never made any kind of move in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park last time out.

w Smart Enough, 8 for 12 lifetime in turf sprints, figures to be favored for a sixth consecutive race when he seeks to defend his title in the $60,000 Thomas Edison, a five-furlong race on the grass (race 7).