By Ed Gray For Gulfstreampark.com
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – A little bad luck turned into good fortune for trainer Nick Zito Sunday at Gulfstream Park when Dialed In closed from last to capture the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3).
Originally scheduled to make his 2011 debut in a 1-1/8-mile allowance race on Jan. 21 until a sloppy racetrack prompted Zito him, Dialed In was reluctantly entered to make only his second lifetime start in the one-mile stakes for 3-year-olds. Despite only a maiden victory at Churchill Downs to his credit, the son of Mineshaft outran eight more- experienced rivals with an impressive stretch drive to score by 1-1/4 lengths.
“He’s very special. I’ve never had a horse do this –go from a maiden special race to jump up and win a race like the Holy Bull,” said Zito, who had no other options but to run Dial In in the Holy Bull with the clock ticking on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
With his second victory, worth $240,000 in graded earnings for owner Robert LaPenta, Dialed In ($7.40) virtually locked up a berth in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 7. Dialed In also took a giant step in the Preakness 5.5 bonus. series, which offers $5.5 million in bonuses to the connections of a 3-year-old that wins either the Holy Bull or the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth (Feb.26) before going on to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby (April 3) at Gulfstream and Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico on May 21.
Just as he did in his six-furlong maiden race last November, Dialed In dropped far off the early pace under Julien Leparoux. The 5-2 second choice in the betting trailed the field by approximately 15 lengths along the backstretch as Black N Beauty set the pace, stalked by Mucho Macho Man, the 2-1 favorite ridden by Eibar Coa. Dialed In saved ground while advancing past tiring rivals on the far turn before being taken to the outside for the stretch run. As Black N Beauty and Macho Man began to weaken on the inside, the Zito trainee loomed as a serious threat to Sweet Ducky and Gourmet Dinner directly to his inside. The latter two proved no match for Dialed In’s ground-devouring strides that carried him to a going-away victory.
“Actually, I did expect to be that far back. Nick told me just to leave him alone and drop to the rail and that’s what I did. He said just to be patient,” Leparoux said. “When I asked him, he really ran on well. This is obviously a very nice horse.”
Dialed In ran the mile in 1:35, built on fractions of :23 4/5, :46 1/5 and 1:10 1/5. Sweet Ducky, a 14-1 outsider ridden by Joe Bravo, held second, a head in front of Gourmet Dinner and jockey Sebastian Madrid. Mucho Macho Man finished fourth, another three lengths back and nearly three lengths ahead of Black N Beauty.
“He was a little sharp today,” said Coa of Mucho Macho Man’s performance. “He’s been working sharp and came out a little sharp. Breaking from the outside, I didn’t really have a place to cover him up so he went a little too fast too soon. I was never able to get him to relax. At a one-turn mile, that happens sometimes. I think he would have relaxed if it was two turns. He’ll be ok.”
Bravo had high praise for his mount, Sweet Ducky, and Dialed In.
“You know with this horse, if he doesn’t win, he’s going to give you 110 percent. This was the best race of his life,” Bravo said. “We weren’t going to beat the winner today. They paid half a million ($475,000) for him for a reason. Hats off to Nick Zito.”
With Dialed In likely collecting enough graded earnings in the Holy Bull to already qualify for the Kentucky Derby, Zito said he wasn’t sure when his colt would race in the Fountain of Youth. But the two-time Florida Derby-winning trainer, who visited the Gulfstream winner’s circle with Strike the Gold (1991) and Ice Box (2010), was sure pleased with Dialed In’s Holy Bull performance.
“I had a good feeling and confidence in Julien to let him be in the right place and then get into the mix. I just wanted him to get out (of gate) clear and settle,” said Zito, whose colt ducked out briefly after the start from his outside post position. “I’m not sure what will be next. The idea is just to get him there (Kentucky Derby).”
Zito has also visited the Churchill Downs winner’s circle with Kentucky Derby winners Strike the Gold and Go for Gin (1994). And looking ahead to the Preakness, in which Dialed In may be eligible for $5.5 million in bonuses, Zito saddled Louis Quatorze for a victory in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown in 1996.