Shalala, her jockey clad in green and white silks, powers down the track. Photo Credit: Adam Coglianese.
With a swiftness and fortitude characteristic of her namesake, Shalala powered up in the final stretch to clinch a decisive victory at New York’s prestigious Aqueduct racetrack. The April win was a first for the filly, who has been racing for less than a year.
“The tricky thing about naming racehorses,” says Alex Zito, B.B.A. ’04, M.B.A. ’06, “is that if you name one after someone you know personally, you feel bad if the horse doesn’t do well.”
Zito, managing partner of Hurricane Boys Racing Stable, doesn’t know Donna E. Shalala personally, but he had to take a leap of faith when naming one of his horses after the president of his beloved alma mater. All horses fully owned by Hurricane Boys, in fact, have names that honor ’Canes past and present. And every jockey who rides them is clad in orange, green, and white.
With a father who is a legendary horse trainer in New York and Florida, a mother who was an exercise rider and now runs an organization for off-the-track Thoroughbreds, a stepmother who is a Thoroughbred rescue activist, and a stepfather who owns racehorses, Zito knew he’d never stray far from the equine world. In 2006, while still a graduate student at UM, he purchased a mare at auction who later birthed his first racehorse, named Santana Six after former Hurricanes wide receiver Santana Moss, B.L.A. ’01. Now retired, Santana Six won twice at Gulfstream Park and brought in strong earnings.
Santana Six’s younger brother, aptly named Sinorice, has brought in nearly $100,000 in earnings so far, including first-place wins at Gulfstream Park and Saratoga Race Course and second-place wins at Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, and others. Zito and his Hurricane Boys partners—wife Erin Vayo Zito, B.S. ’04, M.B.A. ’07, and father Nick Zito—are anxious to see what their youngest horse, 2-year-old Hurricane Ray, can do. The odds are good, Zito figures, since the horse is named after two generations of football greats—former linebacker Ray Lewis II and Ray Lewis III, who signed with the Hurricanes’ 2013 recruiting class.
Zito juggles his Hurricane Boys duties with a successful career as a market research analyst in the Chicago area. He is also the co-author of a wagering guidebook called Super Screener. His wife, a former Hurricanes cheerleader and Iron Arrow member, is an account director for an advertising agency called Trisect.
“The University of Miami is where I met a lot of my friends and my wife,” Zito says, “and it gives me a lot of opportunities in the business world now.”
Both husband and wife were freshmen in 2001, a football national championship year. From victories celebrated to relationships cultivated through the years, there are many reasons these alumni keep the U in their hearts—and, they hope, in the winner’s circle.