Jenny Kellner is an award-winning journalist and educator who has written about horse racing for more than 20 years. She has been a media specialist with NYRA for the past four years.
There is only one Belmont Stakes. And there is only one Nick Zito. And they go together like, well, pizza and New York. As Zito himself said when asked why he wanted Super Saver to win the Preakness: “Well, No. 1, Todd is from Dallas and I don’t think he knows much about pizza.”
Or, as he put it another way: “New York is America.”
Those who were around for trainer Woody Stephens’ five straight Belmont victories may find it a bit presumptuous to call Zito “Mr. Belmont,” even though he’s twice won the “Test of the Champion” and has saddled more Belmont starters than any other trainer in history (22 not including tomorrow).
Not me. When Zito leads Ice Box and Fly Down over for tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes, I bet there will be as many people rooting for the Brooklyn-born Zito as there will be for his two wonderful horses. Sure, there’s another white-haired Hall of Fame trainer in the race, but it’s Zito who belongs to Belmont Park, to New York.
It would be only fitting were he, the quintessential New York trainer, to win the quintessential New York race.
Right or wrong?