LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- There is the thrill of winning the Derby, and there is the money, and there is the fame.
But one of the best parts of winning the Kentucky Derby is the morning after, when you find you haven't turned into a pumpkin and all is beautiful with the world.
Trainer Nick Zito, who saddled Strike the Gold to win Saturday's 117th Derby, was in a great mood during the traditional, informal interview session at his Churchill Downs barn yesterday morning.
A steady flow of cameras and reportersmade its way to Barn 42, where Zito, the personable, 43-year-old Long Island, N.Y., resident, graciously accepted congratulations, told anecdotes, quoted people ranging from fellow trainer Wayne Lukas to his mother, teased reporters about their handicapping abilities and generally yukked it up less than 14 hours after the greatest feat of his training career.
Strike the Gold, owned by B. Giles Brophy and partners and ridden by Chris Antley, rallied from 12th to win the Derby by 1 3/4 lengths over Best Pal, with Mane Minister third and Green Alligator fourth.
Zito said the colt would leave for Baltimore tomorrow or Wednesday to point for the Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
The Derby, he said, provided him one of the greatest feelings of his life. "I felt like God was inviting me into his living room," he said. "It's like [trainer" Ron McAnally said: 'You can win all the Breeders' Cup races and graded stakesyou want. But there's only one Kentucky Derby.' "
Zito said Strike the Gold came out of the race "great. He ate up and did his normal business, biting everybody.
"We're not going to change anything about his training. We'll go straight from here to Baltimore, just like we went from New York to Florida, from Florida to Lexington, and from Lexington to Louisville."
When a Louisville-based reporter kidded him for having been quoted as saying that Louisville is the greatest city in the world, Zito said, "When in Rome, do what the Romans do."
Strike the Gold is a son of Alydar out of the mare Majestic Gold. During her racing career, Majestic Gold won Churchill's Pocahontas Stakes, a minor race. "See, if his mother wonhere, he'd have to win," said Zito. "He couldn't let his mother down."
Zito said he and his wife, Jan, were at the barn until late Saturday night. "We just went out and got a little something to eat, then went home," he said.
In the Preakness, Strike the Gold may face several of his Derby rivals, plus the usual handful of horses that skipped the Derby to await the Preakness.
Best Pal will travel to Baltimore today, with trainer Ian Jory arriving Wednesday.
DMane Minister also will ship to Pimlico to run. Green Alligator will skip the race to run in the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Fly So Free, fifth in the Derby, will ship to trainer Scotty Schulhofer's Belmont Park base and is under consideration for the Preakness. Corporate Report (ninth), trained by Lukas, will go to Pimlico and point for the Preakness.
Hansel, 10th as the 5-2 favorite, will go to trainer Frank Brothers' Arlington Park base in Chicago. "I'm not going to rule out the Preakness," said Brothers. "He'll train a few days, and if he's good and everything's allright, maybe we'll take a chance [and run him]."
Brothers said he had no good excuse for Hansel's 11-length defeat, adding the colt did not bleed during or after the race.
The most daunting non-Derby foe for Strike the Gold figures to be Olympio, the Arkansas Derby winner trained by McAnally. The colt worked six furlongs in 1 minute, 11 seconds at Churchill yesterday morning.
Others being considered possible for the Preakness are Dodge, Kyle's Our Man, Near the Limit, Subordinated Debt and Tank.
Tentative plans for horses from Saturday's Kentucky Derby:
Derby finish, horse Plans
1. Strike the Gold Preakness
2. Best Pal Preakness
3. Mane Minister Preakness
4. Green Alligator Belmont
5. Fly So Free N.Y.-Preakness possible
6. Quintana Ship to California
7. Paulrus Stay in Kentucky
8. Sea Cadet Ship to California
9. Corporate Report Preakness
10. Hansel Chicago-Preakness possible
11. Happy Jazz Band Return to New York
Lost Mountain Return to New York
13. Another Review Return to New York
14. Alydavid Stay at Churchill
15. Wilder Than Ever Stay at Churchill
16. Forty Something Return to Laurel