NEW YORK -- Unbridled's Song's star-crossed career is now in the hands of Nick Zito.
Owner Ernie Paragallo moved his talented but troubled colt into Zito's Saratoga stable yesterday, firing Jim Ryerson as trainer.
Ryerson won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial with the horse, but never seemed to be on the same page with the brash Paragallo, who clearly was calling the shots and was widely criticized for what many have perceived to be mismanagement.
With Ryerson seemingly on the outside looking in, Unbridled's Song's career hit the skids after the Wood Memorial as he lost both the Kentucky Derby and the Peter Pan as the favorite while being bothered by bad feet, a lung infection and an ulcer.
It hit rock bottom in the July 13 Arlington Citation Challenge, when Unbridled's Song finished eighth in the stakes event won by Cigar. It was discovered afterward that he had suffered a nondisplaced fracture of a splint bone during the race.
It's uncertain what the outcome of the Paragallo-Zito union will be, as both are strong-willed individuals and Zito is a high-profile trainer who may not appreciate interference.
Zito said yesterday that his only priority is to nurse Unbridled's Song through his many problems, and vowed the horse will not run again until he has him straightened out, probably not until next year.
"This is a new chapter in his life," Zito said. "This is a new beginning, and if anything goes wrong with him, my name is on it. I've signed my name to Unbridled's Song. I pledge that I will do the best for him, period. Hopefully, he'll come around and we'll get him straightened out mentally and physically."
Zito said he had a two-hour meeting with Paragallo on Monday and it was agreed that he would take over. He liked what he heard and is willing to keep an open mind about Paragallo.
"My two-hour conversation with Ernie was pretty interesting and I can assure you that he's not totally to blame," Zito said.
"I don't want to point fingers -- you can draw your own conclusions -- but there have been a lot of people involved with that horse. You just can't blame Ernie Paragallo."
Ryerson said he was not given any reasons for his dismissal, adding that it was "no surprise."
Paragallo could not be reached.
Pub Date: 7/25/96