- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Just because trainer Nick Zito held a fistful of aces didn’t mean the two-time Kentucky Derby winner thought his third rose blanket was a sure thing. However, he surely didn’t figure on a complete wipeout.

Derby favorite Bellamy Road was indeed his stable’s top finisher yesterday but was a well-beaten seventh. Andromeda’s Hero, considered Zito’s biggest long shot at 57-1, was eighth while High Fly (7-1) finished 10th. Noble Causeway (12-1) and Sun King (15-1) were 14th and 15th respectively.

“Great expectations bring great disappointment,” Zito said. “It’s going to be a setback, but when you think about what happens in life, it’s not that bad.”

Well, almost: It was the worst Derby showing ever by a stable with more than three runners. Zito once again cost bettors millions of dollars in a Triple Crown race. Last year his Birdstone ended heavy favorite Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes.

“It looked pretty good turning for home with High Fly and Bellamy Road, but it didn’t happen for us,” Zito said. “I don’t know what happened. It just shows you what a great game this is, a tough game. That’s what makes this game so amazing, you know?”

Noble Causeway was the only Zito runner with a legitimate excuse. He was pinned inside along the backstretch and needed to stop quickly to avoid a collision.

“I was just trying to get out of a spot and about got dropped,” jockey Gary Stevens said. “Then I was going all right, but I was out of horse.”

Bellamy Road was compromised by a sizzling first quarter-mile that left the early leaders wasted by the stretch. However, he looked like a winner momentarily at the top of the stretch before a wall of horses pulled alongside. After two recent runaway victories, the colt lacked the taste for a stretch duel.

Andromeda’s Hero was supposed to be Zito’s throw-out. Instead, he ran best of all in the lane while passing six horses.

“I tried to stay close,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said. “He finished strong. He was coming.”

Too bad his stablemates were going nowhere. High Fly briefly led after one mile. The Florida Derby winner should have been rested for the final quarter mile after a five-week layoff. Instead, he fell to fourth entering the stretch and was passed by six rivals in the final eighth mile.

“He was giving me the same feel he did [in the Florida Derby],” jockey Jerry Bailey said. “They swamped me so bad I don’t know [where I finished].”

Sun King once was ranked among the top contenders during the winter before a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 16 brought doubts. The previous start proved a harbinger as Sun King quickly tired midway when falling from eighth to 15th in a quarter-mile.

“He was running OK for awhile,” jockey Edgar Prado said, “but he had no finish.”

Zito now must regroup. Long shot Giacomo’s Derby victory won’t scare off too many horses for the Preakness Stakes on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course. While Buzzards Bay (fifth), Spanish Chestnut (16th) and High Limit (20th) appear out, several of the top contenders will consider the second leg of the Triple Crown, along with four non-Derby runners.

Zito remained noncommittal. He needs to see if there are any physical problems this morning that would explain the poor finishes. However, Zito won the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze after a dismal 16th-place Derby finish.

“We’ll have something for the Preakness,” he said. “I just don’t know who yet.”

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