Dialed In Upset By Stablemate Equestrio
By Ed Gray
Sunday’s fourth race at Gulfstream Park was somewhat of a mixed bag of fortunes for Nick Zito. The Hall of Fame trainer had a few reasons to be happy and another to be disappointed.
First and foremost, Zito had to be overjoyed that the 1-1/8-mile allowance race that was specifically written for his star 3-year-old, Dialed In, was conducted on a fast track only minutes before Gulfstream was hit with a torrential downpour.
The disappointment came when previously undefeated Dialed In came up short of victory by a half-length, although tempered by the fact that his Kentucky Derby hopeful was upset by the Zito-trained Equestrio ($8.40). Looking further down the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the beaten 1-5 favorite convinced his trainer that he will greatly benefit from his first two-turn experience.
“The horse that beat him isn’t a bad horse. It was two turns' they were older horses; and there was no speed in the race,” Zito said. “I would have liked to win, but I have to be happy. It was a mile and an eighth over the track. He made the mile and an eighth.”
Dialed In, who closed from far off the pace to win his first two starts, settled much closer to the pace under Julien Leparoux as long shot Reprized Halo set slow fractions with Equestrio closely stalking under Jose Lezcano. Sitting in last in the tight-packed field, only a few lengths off the pace, Dialed In raced between William’s Kitten to his inside and Valerius to his outside. Leparoux maintained a tight hold of the son of Mineshaft, waiting to get a clear running path heading into the far turn.
On the turn into the homestretch, a hole finally opened up inside Valierius, and Leparoux asked his mount for his run. Dialed In responded, but his 4-year-old stablemate had already sprinted clear by three lengths in mid-stretch, seemingly on his way to an easy score. Under left-handed urging by Lezcano, Equestrio suddenly veered to the outside, causing his jockey to take a tight hold of the reins. Dialed In surged to the finish as Lezcano gained control of his mount and saved the victory by a half-length.
Equestrio, who is owned by the Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, ran 1-1/8 miles in 1:51, built on slow fractions of :24 4/5, :49 2/5, 1:13 4/5 and 1:38 1/5. Valerius, ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson, finished third, another 4-1/4 lengths back.
Although Valerius’s outside presence put Dialed In in a little traffic, Leparoux said the slow pace was more of a detriment to his colt’s chance of victory.
“We got a trip, a good teaching trip, but there was no pace unfortunately. The first two races the half was :45 and :46. This race it was almost :50, so he’s going to be closer,” said Leparoux, who was aboard for Dialed In’s maiden victory at Churchill Downs last fall and his sharp triumph in the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream on Jan. 30. “It’s horse racing, he’s going to have horses next to him in the Derby, so he’s got to learn that. The horse on the outside made me be patient, that’s all. It was a good race.”
Equestrio’s stretch antics had no effect on Dialed In, said his jockey.
“He was clear, I don’t know what happened. He just went from the rail, got scared or something. He just went out, but he was clear and my horse didn’t react to anything, so that was good,” Leparoux said.
Zito is hoping for a faster pace in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream on April 3.
“You know the Florida Derby is going to have more speed,” said Zito, who saddled Ice Box for a victory in last year’s Florida Derby. “ If he has a good month, we’ll still look at that.”
‘Stormy’ Conditions Don’t Upset Clement
Trainer Christophe Clement was one trainer entered in Saturday’s $60,000 Ladies Turf Sprint who wasn’t upset when a mid-afternoon downpour caused Gulfstream officials to switch the five-furlong stakes from the grass course to the sloppy main track.
Stormy Publisher ($6.60), who has proven equally adept on turf or dirt both in her native Argentina and the U.S., made a splash over the sloppy main track with an impressive front-running victory under Alan Garcia. The 5-year-old mare was pressed by Freedom Land into the stretch and successfully withstood a stretch-long challenge by D’wild Ride to prevail by a neck.
Stormy Publisher ran five furlongs in :57 1/5 seconds while remaining undefeated in three U.S. starts, which include a turf stakes triumph at Belmont Park in her first start for Clement last fall and a main-track score in a Tampa Bay Downs stakes on Jan.1.
D’wild Ride, ridden by Luis Saez, finished 5-1/4 lengths clear of Freedom Land and jockey Andrew Ramgeet.