08/23/2007 11:00PM

Zito taking things slow with War Pass


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - War Pass ran well enough winning his debut to be considered for the Grade 1 Hopeful here on closing day. But trainer Nick Zito would prefer to bring the 2-year-old along gradually, which is why he has opted to run War Pass in a first-level allowance race here Sunday.

War Pass, a son of Cherokee Run, is one of six maiden winners entered in the six-furlong allowance race, which has a pot of $67,000. It will be run as the third race on the 10-race card.

"This race is like a stakes race, but it's not the Hopeful," Zito said. "You need to bring these horses along. No matter how you look at it, the Hopeful horses have more seasoning. Even the ones that don't are considered the top."

War Pass is a half-brother to Oath, who in 1996 won her debut here by three lengths before coming back to win the Grade 1 Spinaway 19 days later. Frank Brothers trained Oath.

In his debut, War Pass broke last from post 4 and was hustled to the lead by Corey Nakatani. He dueled inside of Globalization through a half-mile in 45 seconds before drawing clear in the stretch.

Cornelio Velasquez will be aboard War Pass on Sunday from the rail.

"He broke slow, that's why I wish I had a better post," Zito said. "Corey told me he's a wonderful horse, he's got a good future. The reason I wanted the outside post is I think he could be rateable."

The outside post belongs to Fidelio, a son of Awesome Again who won his debut over Woodbine's Polytrack. Owner Frank Stronach transferred him from Brian Lynch to Bobby Frankel, who has worked the colt three times over Saratoga's main track, including a bullet half-mile in 47.24 seconds on Aug. 22.

"He's a nice strong colt," Frankel said. "He's breezed pretty good, maybe too good."

Pyro, a debut winner at Churchill Downs for Steve Asmussen, and Ascot Hall, a debut winner at Belmont who finished sixth in the Sanford, appear to be the other top contenders.

Maimonides works toward Hopeful

While Zito has elected to run War Pass in an allowance race, trainer Bob Baffert is pointing his sharp debut winner Maimonides to the Grade 1, $250,000 Hopeful on Sept. 3.

On Friday, Maimonides worked five furlongs in 1:00.45 over the main track under exercise rider Simon Harris. Maimonides went his first quarter in 24.60 seconds and came home his last quarter in 23.92 seconds.

"They said the track is real dead, the slowest it's been all meet, but he worked good," Baffert said. "He started off slow, then he started picking it up. We know he's fast."

Maimonides, a $4.6 million son of Vindication, won his debut here by 11 1/2 lengths on Aug. 8. He has worked here twice since that race.

As of Friday, there were only four definites for the Hopeful, including Ready's Image, Maimonides, Majestic Warrior, and Georgetown.

Seven likely for Woodward

Five horses from the Whitney Handicap, won by Lawyer Ron, are expected to run back in the Grade 1 Woodward next Saturday, according to stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.

Whitney second- and third-place finishers Wanderin Boy and Diamond Stripes are expected back, as are Brass Hat (8th in Whitney) and Sun King (12th). Suburban Handicap winner Political Force and Metropolitan Handicap winner Corinthian are also expected to run.

On Friday, Zito worked both Sun King and Wanderin Boy over the main track. Sun King, working in company with Shone, went four furlongs in 46.53 seconds, while Wanderin Boy, who also worked in company, went the same distance in 46.71 seconds.

Zito called Sun King's work "one of the best works since I got him."

"Great morning," Zito said. "Both horses are coming up to the Woodward the right way."

Brass Hat, meanwhile, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Churchill Downs on Friday.

On Thursday at Aqueduct, Diamond Stripes worked five furlongs in 1:00, a move that had trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. pumped up to run his colt back in the Woodward.

"I'm going to the Woodward as long as he keeps training good," Dutrow said. "We did some work on his hind end and I think he's going good. I was real happy with him."

Luzzi breaks 0-for-60 drought

When Mike Luzzi guided Philharmonic ($16.40) to a gate-to-wire victory in Friday's fifth race, it ended a 0-for-58 start to the meet for the veteran jockey. Overall, Luzzi was 0 for 60 in New York since winning the fifth race at Belmont on July 22.

"What can you say, long-time waiting," Luzzi said. "I'm very shocked, to be honest with you, but I haven't really been riding that much. You don't win, you don't pick up anything else. I'm just happy to be here today."

Luzzi said the winless streak was wearing on him a little bit.

"I got a family at home, they're looking at me, 'What's going on?'" Luzzi said. "It's hard. I'm 37 years old. But I laid in bed one summer wishing I could be here."

Luzzi was referring to the summer of 2004 when he suffered a broken leg in the first race run at the meet and was out for four months.

In the race immediately following Luzzi's win, Raul Rojas, who was 1ofor 64 at the meet, guided Autumn of My Years ($75.50) to a front-running victory on the turf.

Pletcher glad to end winless streak

The gaggle of reporters hovering around Todd Pletcher in the winner's circle following Wait a While's triumph in Thursday's Ballston Spa Handicap seemed more interested in the fact that the four-time reigning training champion had just snapped a 30-race losing streak during the meet than the Eclipse Award-winning filly's impressive performance in the Grade 2 stakes. But as usual, Pletcher took the steady barrage of questions regarding his recent cold spell in stride.

"We've been pretty fortunate not to have endured too many slumps over the years, and naturally it was good to finally get this one out of the way," Pletcher said.

Wait a While's stylish performance in the Ballston Spa gave Pletcher his 10th win of the session, putting him third behind Bill Mott (18) and Gary Contessa (11) in the standings entering Friday's card. The long dry spell has left Pletcher with just a 12 percent success rate for the meet, far below the usual standards for the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer.

"Generally, the Saratoga meet is good for us, and we came here looking forward to defending our four titles in a row," Pletcher said. "Unfortunately, things haven't quite worked out like we planned, but we've still got a little time left and some good horses to run before the meet is over."

Jazzy impresses in first U.S. win

Another filly who turned some heads with a big performance on the grass this week was Jazzy, who finished full of run to upset Wednesday's 5 1/2-furlong Capades Stakes. The win was the first in this country for the daughter of Mutakddim. The Argentine-bred is trained by Mark Hennig.

"She probably should be undefeated in this country," Hennig said Friday. "She got a bad ride and a bad trip in her first start in the U.S."

Jazzy was beaten a nose in an overnight turf stakes when making her U.S. debut at Monmouth Park on July 21.

"She had some bleeding issues over there," Hennig said, referring to Jazzy's earlier races in South Africa. Barry Irwin "called me and asked if I'd take her to see how she'd do running over here with Lasix."

Jazzy won the Capades despite breaking slowly, which may have been a blessing in disguise, according to her trainer.

"There was a lot of speed in the field and I didn't want her up there battling with the early leaders," Hennig said. "The way the race set up, things worked out pretty well after the slow start."

Hennig said he had no plans for Jazzy's next race.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch