St. Nick speaks. Well, maybe not quite a saint, but there is a lot to love about Nick Zito. Firmly and publicly anti-horse slaughter, Zito does more than just talk.
Cross-posted from The Daily Gazette, Schenechtady, New York
By PHIL JANACK
Reporting from Churchill Downs
Commentator has won four of five starts this year, including his second career victory in the Grade I Whitney Handicap July 26 at Saratoga, three years after his first. He became the second-oldest horse to win the 81-year-old race behind Hall of Famer Kelso, who was 8 when he did it for the third time in 1965.
Following the Whitney, Zito ran Commentator in the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap on Sept. 20, both because of the race’s timing and history and the stance taken by Suffolk Downs, which this year adopted a zero-tolerance policy banning any horseman who sells a horse for slaughter.
An overwhelming favorite, Commentator cruised to a 14-length victory in the MassCap, running 11⁄8 miles in 1:48.97.
“For me, that was one of the greatest races that I had participated in,” Zito said. “John Hettinger had just died. He was one of my mentors and friends, and my longest owner. He gave his life, literally, for horses.
“This nonsense of horse slaughter is insane. It is absolutely the most disgusting thing I’ve heard of. Sure, you don’t want a million horses around, but let me tell you something. We have an obligation to do the right thing, and that man gave his life for that. I dedicated that race to him, and it was great. What Commentator did was speak for a lot of people.”
Commentator has overcome several physical problems throughout his career, including multiple cannon bone fractures, and retained his blazing speed. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 120 in the Whitney, his third time at 120 or higher. His average margin of victory is 10 lengths.
“He’s very, very special, obviously,” Zito said. “He’s just amazing. With all the injuries he’s had, it’s just an amazing thing.”