03/25/2009 12:00AM

Zito's Derby clock ticking


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Time is running out on trainer Nick Zito to get one of his 3-year-olds to the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps his best chance at this stage is Just a Coincidence, who Zito confirmed on Wednesday as a starter for the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial to be run here on April 4.

The Wood has been kind to Zito, who has 3 wins and 2 seconds from 10 starters in this race since 1990. Though it took six tries for Just a Coincidence, a son of Forestry, to earn a maiden win, he has put together two straight victories in one-turn mile races at Gulfstream Park.

"He's a big horse, a late-developing horse, typical of some of our horses," Zito said by phone Wednesday from south Florida. "You can never predict anything, you just got to keep trying. Sometimes it looks absolutely silly, but if it's not going to hurt a horse's career then you should take as many shots as you want. He's had tons of experience and tons of foundation. This is the natural progression."

Zito said Paco Lopez, who has been aboard for the colt's two victories at Gulfstream, will come up from Florida to ride.

"If he went to Hong Kong, that kid would be riding the horse," Zito said.

While Just a Coincidence is now confirmed for the Wood, the race lost one potential starter as the connections of Al Khali have elected to run in the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, the same day as the Wood.

"We've had success in the Illinois Derby with Cowtown Cat," said Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manager of WinStar Farm, which owns Al Khali. "You need tactical speed to compete there - War Emblem won on the lead, Cowtown Cat won on the lead - this horse has that. It should set up well for him."

As of Wednesday, the Wood field was expected to include I Want Revenge, Imperial Council, Mr. Fantasy, Just a Coincidence, Atomic Rain, Lime Rickey and West Side Bernie. Danger to Society, who was entered in Saturday's Florida Derby, is still possible for the Wood.

Biker Boy to Carter

Zito said he plans to be involved in all four of the graded stakes on Wood Day, including the Grade 1 Carter with Biker Boy, who has won four consecutive races.

Biker Boy won a third-level allowance race at Gulfstream on March 18 by 13 1/2 lengths in a race that scratched down to three starters. The fact the race was little more than a public workout for Biker Boy enables Zito to run him back in 17 days.

"I would have preferred to have gotten the race earlier, but I'm just glad I got the race," Zito said. "A race is still a race, but it looked like it was easy on him."

Zito said he will run Rocketing Returns in the Bay Shore and has Commentator, Da' Tara, and Truth Rules nominated to the Excelsior.

The Carter, run at seven furlongs, is shaping up to be the deepest race of the day. Among those expected are Ah Day, Driven by Success, Eternal Star, Fabulous Strike, Kodiak Kowboy, Tale of Ekati, True Quality, and Understatement.

True Quality in swift drill

True Quality, who defeated Fabulous Strike in the Grade 2 General George Handicap last month at Laurel Park, drilled a sharp five furlongs in 58.71 seconds Wednesday morning over Aqueduct's inner track. Kevin Thomas was aboard for the move, which was the fastest of four at the distance.

A happy Thomas summed up the mood of the barn regarding True Quality's move when he said, "If I'm happy, everybody's got to be happy. If I'm not happy, nobody's happy."

"He works like he always works - fast," trainer John Campo Jr. said. "He runs fast. He worked well this morning, we'll lead him over there April 4th and see if we get lucky again."

What a Pear in final Ashland prep

The undefeated New York-bred 3-year-old filly What a Pear worked five furlongs in 1:01.41 Wednesday morning over Aqueduct's inner track. It was her last move before she takes on champion Stardom Bound in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 4.

Aqueduct clockers caught What a Pear in fractions of 13.20 seconds, 25.60, and 37.80. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20.

"Things went great this morning," trainer Joe Parker said. "So far, so good; she's on schedule. I'm anxious to see what she'll do next."

What a Pear, who has gone 4 for 4 this winter, will leave New York Tuesday night by van and arrive sometime Wednesday. According to Russell Cohen, the breeder of What a Pear and the son of owners Ira and Bernice Cohen, What a Pear will not train at Keeneland before the race. She will simply walk the shed row.

"She doesn't need to be over-trained," Cohen said. "If she's not fit three days before she's to run in a race, there's no sense running her. She's fit as a fiddle. The less miles you put into them, the longer they last. If it's good enough for all the champions LeRoy Jolley trained, it's good enough for What a Pear."

Cohen said he often consults with the Hall of Famer Jolley when it comes to What a Pear.

Weathered heads Next Move sextet

Weathered, the 7 1/4-length winner of the Rare Treat Stakes last month, heads the field of six entered for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

She will face a field that includes Winning Point, who won the Am Capable Stakes on March 8 in her first start off a seven-month layoff, and Successful Sarah, who won a starter handicap in her second start for trainer John Terranova and the IEAH Stables on Feb. 20.

Also entered are Nijinksy Bullet, Bourbon Maid, and Point Me to It.

Dominguez sets inner-track record

When Ramon Dominguez won Wednesday's third race aboard Baroness ($5.20), it was his 114th win of the inner-track meet. That enabled him to break the inner-track record of 113 he set last year.

Dominguez went on to win two more races on the day, the 20th time this winter that Dominguez won three or more races on an inner-track card since the meet began on Dec. 3. That included a five-win day on Feb. 7.

Dominguez's 116 wins are more than the total of second- and third-leading riders C.C. Lopez (57) and Rajiv Maragh (53) combined.