By Mint Julep


Nick Zito Trainer: Two Kentucky Derby Winners

kentucky derby winner 1991 strike the gold

Key Takeaways

  • Nick Zito, a veteran storyteller in the horse racing world, has made a lasting impact with his impressive accomplishments as a trainer, winning two Kentucky Derby races.
  • Throughout his successful career, he has competed in prestigious events like the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup. These races highlight his exceptional skills and success on the track.
  • In addition to his training abilities, Nick Zito’s support for horse welfare and participation in various business ventures demonstrate his enduring influence and dedication to Thoroughbred horse racing.

Early Life and Career Beginnings

Born on February 6, 1948, in New York City, Nick Zito began his journey in horse racing from the ground up. He started as a hot walker and worked his way up to roles like groom and assistant trainer, laying a solid foundation for his promising career. His love for these majestic animals was evident early on.

Zito’s big break came in 1990 when Thirty Six Red emerged as his breakout star by winning the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes. This victory not only marked a significant milestone in Zito’s career but also hinted at the greatness that was yet to come under his expert guidance. It set the stage for future successes that would firmly establish him in Thoroughbred horse racing history.

Nick Zito’s story is one of determination and unwavering commitment to excellence within the sport he loves so much. With each step taken on this exciting path, Zito improved his skills as a trainer with every race he supervised closely. His ability to bond with horses went beyond just training; it became an art form based on trust and respect which led to success.

As time passed, Zito’s talent shone brightly on some of racing’s biggest stages including two wins at the Kentucky Derby—a pinnacle where dreams met destiny amidst thundering hooves and cheering crowds. Through hard work and thrilling finishes, Nick Zito created a legacy that extends far beyond racetracks—an emblem of strength amid change in an ever-evolving sport landscape. His tale serves both as inspiration and proof of what can be achieved through perseverance combined with unyielding love for these magnificent equine athletes who capture our hearts year after year.

Kentucky Derby Victories

Nick Zito has proven himself in the Kentucky Derby with two impressive victories. In 1991, he led Strike the Gold to a glorious win at Churchill Downs, showcasing both his expertise as a trainer and the horse’s unwavering spirit on the track. This victory was a significant milestone for Zito, solidifying his place among top Thoroughbred racing trainers.

Not one to dwell on past successes, Nick Zito returned to claim victory at the Run for Roses three years later with Go for Gin. Leading this talented colt through tough competition requires more than just skill; it demands a deep understanding of horses’ potential and relentless dedication—an approach that defines Zito’s training style. With each step towards success, he reinforced his reputation as an exceptional conditioner capable of preparing horses for peak performance when it counts most.

The wins at the Kentucky Derby serve as bright landmarks highlighting Nick Zito’s remarkable career—proof of his ability to nurture champions from humble beginnings into stars of horse racing. These triumphs not only cemented his status among legendary figures in racing but also highlighted his enduring influence on the sport. As fans cheered loudly from stands reverberating with thundering hoofbeats, they witnessed more than mere race victories; they saw moments where aspirations met fate under Zito’s vigilant eye.

The Pros & Cons of Legendary Horse Racing Trainers


  1. I have trained many top-tier racehorses with great success
  2. I excel in prestigious horse racing events and have a proven winning record
  3. My expertise lies in creating successful strategies for high-stakes races
  4. I have strong connections within the exciting world of horse racing
  5. Spotting and nurturing talented young horses into champions is my specialty
  6. Known for excellent horsemanship skills and exceptional care of racehorses


  1. Legendary trainers charge high fees for their services
  2. They have limited availability because they work with many clients and races
  3. Athletes feel intense pressure to keep winning, which can be stressful
  4. The demanding schedule and travel needs may lead to burnout
  5. There could be conflicts of interest when training horses from different stables that compete against each other
  6. It’s challenging to adjust to changes in the horse racing industry.

Preakness Stakes Win

In 1996, Nick Zito achieved a major victory at the Preakness Stakes, showcasing his talent as a trainer. As Louis Quatorze charged down the homestretch, Zito proudly watched his horse surge ahead to claim victory and make history in racing. This win highlighted Zito’s skill in preparing horses for top competitions and solidified his reputation as one of the best trainers in the industry.

The atmosphere at Pimlico Race Course on that memorable day was electrifying, with fans cheering wildly as Louis Quatorze crossed the finish line first under Zito’s expert guidance. Winning such a prestigious race like the Preakness is every trainer’s dream come true, and for Nick Zito, it marked another milestone in his already impressive career. His dedication to nurturing talented equine athletes had once again paid off, showing why he is considered a masterful force in horse racing.

Following this thrilling victory at the Preakness Stakes, Nick Zito received well-deserved praise from peers and fans alike. His strategic skills combined with an unmistakable passion for these majestic creatures set him apart within his field. The legacy of this win resonated through racing circles, further establishing Zito’s status as a legendary trainer whose expertise elevated him to elite levels within Thoroughbred horse racing community.

Belmont Stakes Success

Nick Zito is a well-known winner at the Belmont Stakes. He triumphed in this event twice – first in 2004 with Birdstone and then again in 2008 with Da’ Tara. The victory with Birdstone remains unforgettable as he stopped Smarty Jones from winning the Triple Crown that year by making an impressive comeback to seize the win. Zito’s clever training methods and deep understanding of each horse’s strengths were on full display during these significant races.

Not only did Nick Zito achieve success at the Belmont Stakes, but he also excelled in other prestigious races like the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His talent for training top-level horses for various types of tracks highlighted his skills as a versatile trainer. With a keen eye for spotting potential and forming strong bonds with his equine companions, Zito consistently delivered outstanding performances on racing’s biggest platforms.

Zito’s expertise goes beyond just winning races; it includes a strong commitment to respecting these magnificent animals both on and off the track. He is famous not only for being inducted into the Hall of Fame but also for championing initiatives that promote horse welfare. Through his dedication to ensuring that horses receive proper care throughout their careers, Zito sets an example of integrity within the racing industry while advocating ethical treatment practices.

Besides his remarkable achievements as a trainer, Nick Zito has ventured into various business opportunities related to Thoroughbred racing which have further established him as a leading figure within the sport. This demonstrates not only his skill on race day but also his ability to manage successful ventures associated with horseracing effectively.

Legendary Trainer Nick Zito’s Racing Achievements

Occupation Born Career wins Major racing wins Honours Significant horses
Trainer February 6, 1948 (age 76)
New York City, New York, U.S.
2,060+ – American Classics wins:
Kentucky Derby (1991, 1994)
Preakness Stakes (1996)
Belmont Stakes (2004, 2008)
– Breeders’ Cup wins:
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (1996)
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (2007)
United States Racing Hall of Fame (2005) Thirty Six Red, Strike the Gold, Louis Quatorze
Go for Gin, Storm Song, Birdstone
Albert the Great, Unbridled’s Song, Bird Town, Commentator, Da’ Tara, War Pass

Breeders’ Cup Achievements

Nick Zito isn’t just known for winning the big American horse races. His victories at the prestigious Breeders’ Cup events have added even more shine to his already impressive career. Back in 1996, he showed off his skills by training Storm Song to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race. This was a huge moment for Zito as it proved that he could get young fillies ready to succeed on one of horse racing’s biggest stages.

Now let’s jump ahead more than ten years and see Nick Zito shine again at the Breeders’ Cup. In 2007, he expertly trained War Pass to victory in the tough Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. This win not only showcased Zito’s talent and hard work but also confirmed that he could produce champions across different age groups and distances.

These triumphs at the Breeders’ Cup races prove how versatile and skilled Nick Zito is when it comes to developing horses for top-level competition on some of racing’s grandest platforms. Winning in both juvenile divisions demonstrates an amazing range that few trainers can match – a true sign of excellence that secures his place among horse racing legends.

Hall of Fame Induction

Nick Zito became a member of the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 due to his unwavering commitment and expertise in horse racing. Throughout his long career, Zito built his reputation through hard work and a deep understanding of these amazing animals. His induction firmly established him among the best trainers, highlighting not just his impressive wins but also how he shaped the sport.

During his successful career, Nick Zito demonstrated an exceptional talent for turning young horses into champions on the track. By carefully planning training routines and forming strong connections with each horse he trained, Zito set himself apart from others in the industry. This hands-on approach led to numerous victories in prestigious races and endeared him to many fans who admired both his skills with horses and down-to-earth personality.

Being recognized by the Hall of Fame was a major accomplishment for Nick Zito as it celebrated a lifetime devoted to horses and racing. It went beyond just winning awards; it symbolized a profound love that drove early mornings at the track, thrilling moments at famous races like the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, as well as quiet evenings spent caring for equine friends. For Nick Zito, this honor wasn’t about personal fame—it was about showing respect to these majestic creatures that had become an integral part of who he is.”

Legendary tales surrounding Zito’s Derby triumphs.

  1. Exciting Stories of Zito’s Derby Wins:
  2. **The Thrilling Victory of Strike the Gold**: Back in 1991, Nick Zito trained Strike the Gold to win the Kentucky Derby. Despite a slow start, this colt surged ahead down the stretch to clinch victory, demonstrating Zito’s expertise in preparing his horses for major races.
  3. **Thunder Gulch Makes History**: Thunder Gulch, another horse under Nick Zito’s guidance, triumphed at the Kentucky Derby inWhat makes this win remarkable is that Thunder Gulch went on to secure victory at the Belmont Stakes as well, establishing himself as a dual classic winner with Zito leading the way.
  4. **Zito’s Drive for Derby Triumphs**: Known for his relentless commitment to training top-tier racehorses especially geared towards success at the Kentucky Derby, Nick Zito has earned fame through meticulous preparation and strategic approaches that have resulted in multiple wins at this prestigious event – solidifying him as a legendary trainer within racing circles.
  5. **The Impact of Team Zito on Derby Contenders**: Throughout time, horses under Nick Zito’s tutelage have consistently vied for top spots at the Kentucky Derby; many delivering stellar performances when it matters most on racing’s grand stage. By bringing out peak performance from his equine athletes consistently over time,Zitohas become a formidable presence within Thoroughbred racing.
  6. **Nick Zitos Legacy Enshrined in Racing Lore**: With two triumphant victories attheKentuckyDerby,tohis name,NickZitohashistorically secureda placeinDerby history.His talesofsuccessincludingthetriumphsofStrike TheGoldandThunderGulchcontinue toenchantenthusiasts and aspiring trainers alike underscoringZitosenduring influenceonthe worldo fhorseracing.

Notable Horses Trained

Nick Zito’s barn has always been a haven for top-notch horses, with stars like Thirty Six Red making it their home. Strike the Gold truly sparkled under Zito’s guidance, winning hearts and races on the track. Louis Quatorze was another standout horse in Zito’s lineup of champions, wowing audiences with its speed and grace.

Go for Gin made history as a Kentucky Derby champion trained by none other than Nick Zito himself. Storm Song danced her way to victory under his coaching, showing that Zito had an undeniable talent for spotting winners across different generations. Birdstone achieved glory at the Belmont Stakes with Zito leading the way, cementing their reputation as an unbeatable team.

Albert the Great stood out in prestigious races thanks to Nick Zito’s expert training methods. Unbridled’s Song found success under Zito’s tutelage while Bird Town secured multiple wins along the way. Commentator kept fans on edge with thrilling performances orchestrated by Nick Zitos’ masterful touch.

Da’ Tara etched its name into racing history by claiming victory at the Belmont Stakes under Nick Zitos’ skilled direction; proof of his ability to nurture champions from humble beginnings. War Pass raced ahead under his careful eye, leaving competitors trailing behind in awe of both horse and trainer alike.

Advocacy for Horse Welfare

Nick Zito’s love for horses goes beyond just the racetrack. Alongside his dedicated wife Kim, they support causes that are important to them, like helping organizations such as the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and taking on key roles within the National Horse Protection Coalition. Their actions speak louder than words, showing a strong commitment that is felt throughout the horse racing community.

In a sport where speed and competition often steal the show, Nick Zito shines not only as an expert trainer but also as a caring advocate for those hardworking four-legged athletes who give their all on the track. By actively joining in efforts to improve horse welfare, he sets an example of responsibility and compassion that stands out among his peers.

Using his position as a respected figure in horse racing, Nick Zito uses his influence to bring attention to important issues surrounding horse well-being. With a genuine concern for these amazing animals guiding every step he takes towards positive change, he showcases not only skill in training but also unwavering support for ensuring every racehorse is treated with dignity and respect during their careers and into retirement.

Business Ventures

In recent years, Nick Zito has shown his entrepreneurial spirit by diving into business ventures in the horse racing industry. A standout partnership that emerged leading up to 2023 is his collaboration with Robert S DiPippo to establish ZD Racing and a horse management company. This smart move not only shows Zito’s ongoing dedication to the sport but also highlights his interest in exploring new opportunities within Thoroughbred racing.

Zito’s venture into business activities demonstrates his versatility and adaptability beyond being a successful trainer. By teaming up for projects like ZD Racing, he reveals a multifaceted approach aimed at enhancing horseracing while solidifying his position as an influential figure in the field. With each new project, Nick Zito continues to make a lasting impact on both the competitive and commercial sides of horse racing, showcasing his unwavering passion for advancing the sport.

Through initiatives such as creating ZD Racing with Robert S DiPippo, it becomes evident that Nick Zito’s influence goes far beyond training champions on racetracks across America. His move into establishing a horse management company signifies more than just a business decision; it reflects his vision for innovation and progress in an ever-evolving industry. Through these dynamic partnerships, Nick Zito establishes himself not only as an exceptional trainer but also as a savvy entrepreneur shaping the future of Thoroughbred racing one step at a time.

Other Graded Stakes Wins

Nick Zito is not just known for winning big races like the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He has also triumphed at other prestigious events such as the Blue Grass Stakes, Brooklyn Handicap, Champagne Stakes, Florida Derby, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Kentucky Oaks, Pimlico Special Handicap, and Wood Memorial Stakes over many years. This shows that Zito consistently trains his horses to perform at their best.

Zito’s talent in training winners across a variety of important races demonstrates his expertise and passion for horse racing. Whether he is claiming victory at famous competitions like the Kentucky Oaks or showcasing strategic skills at events like the Jockey Club Gold Cup or Pimlico Special Handicap multiple times during his career highlights Nick Zito’s impact on Thoroughbred horse racing.

His numerous wins in graded stakes races not only add to his impressive record but also showcase his dedication to excellence in every aspect of racehorse training. His consistent success in various well-known races proves that he is one of the top trainers in the industry—a master craftsman whose love for horseracing shines through each win celebrated by owners, jockeys, bettors nationwide.


1. What are the names of the two Kentucky Derby champions trained by Nick Zito?

Nick Zito coached Strike the Gold to victory in 1991 and guided Go for Gin to a Kentucky Derby win in 1994.

2. How many Triple Crown races has Nick Zito won as a trainer?

As a trainer, Nick Zito has triumphed in two of the three Triple Crown races by leading his horses to victory. He clinched first place in the Kentucky Derby twice with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994.

3. When was Nick Zito inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame?

Nick Zito became a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame back in 2005.

4. Can you name some other notable horses trained by Nick Zito besides his Kentucky Derby winners?

Nick Zito has trained some impressive horses like Birdstone, Da’ Tara, and War Pass. These horses have won big races such as the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup.

5. How has Nick Zito contributed to horse welfare and advocacy within the racing industry?

Nick Zito has always spoken up for taking good care of horses and making sure they are safe in the horse racing world. He actively backs projects like the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, stressing how crucial it is to be a responsible horse owner throughout his impressive career.

6. What are some of the key business ventures or partnerships that have defined Nick Zito’s career as a trainer?

Nick Zito partnered with Robert LaPenta to train top horses such as Birdstone and Ice Box. He also owns the famous Palm Meadows training center, where he continues to develop champions in horse racing.