05/06/2005 11:00PM

Zito's high hopes end in letdown


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of trainer Nick Zito's pet sayings is, "Great expectations bring great disappointment."

Expectations were never greater for Zito than in Saturday's 131st Kentucky Derby when he ran five horses, including the 5-2 favorite, Bellamy Road. Alas, disappointment was never greater as none of Zito's five runners hit the board. Bellamy Road trudged home seventh, about seven lengths behind longshot winner Giacomo.

Zito's other runners were Andromeda's Hero (8th), High Fly (10th), Noble Causeway (14th), and Sun King (15th).

A calm, cool, and confident Zito watched the Derby from the Jockey Club Suite of Arlington Park chairman and Churchill Downs board member Richard Duchossois on the fourth floor of the Churchill grandstand. Zito stood with Duchossois on his left, Zito's wife, Kim, on his right and Zito's son Alex to her right.

After the race, he gave his wife a kiss on the cheek and his son a hug.

"That's the business, that's the game," Zito said as he headed down the elevator to check on his horses. "That's the way it is. I'm still grateful for having this opportunity, but what could you say? That's what makes the game great - [a] 50-1 [shot] win it. That's the way it goes. This is still a great game."

Zito was the focus of the 131st Kentucky Derby, becoming the first trainer to saddle five horses in one Derby for five different owners. D. Wayne Lukas was the only other trainer to run five horses in one Derby, and Grindstone needed every inch of the Churchill stretch to beat Cavonnier by a nose in 1996. Lukas runners also ran third, sixth, 10th, and 18th that year.

Zito said his confidence was based on the fact that his horses had seemed to train so well during the week.

"I thought we prepared the horses as good as could be," he said. "They trained great. I don't know what else we could have done. It was just one of those days."

Zito noted that Bellamy Road was close up early, dropped back around the first turn, but was in the clear down the backside, which is what Zito wanted.

"He had every chance," Zito said.

Since winning his second Kentucky Derby in 1994 with Go for Gin, Zito has now gone winless with his last 16 Derby starters, including two-horse entries in 1996, 1997, and 2004.