Halfway through Sunday's Florida Derby, Dialed In trailed by double-digit lengths. Five furlongs later, he was among the Kentucky Derby favorites.
Working against a track playing to speed, jockey Julien Leparoux kicked Dialed In into gear entering the stretch turn. By that point, it appeared extreme long shot Shackleford might have stolen away with the race. But Dialed In gobbled up ground in the final furlong, closed the gap and put a head in front under the wire to take the $1 million, Grade I event.
To Honor and Serve prompted the pace into the stretch, tired and finished third, 6 3/4 lengths farther back. The remaining order of finish was Flashpoint, Soldat, Arch Traveler, Stay Thirsty and Bowman's Causeway.
Dialed In ran the 9 furlongs in 1:50.05 over a fast track.
Dialed In, owned by Robert La Penta and trained by Nick Zito, is by Mineshaft, a son of A.P. Indy, out of the Storm Cat mare Miss Doolittle. In four starts, he now has three wins. He finished behind stablemate Equestrio in an optional claimer against older horses last month as Zito sought a suitable prep for the Florida Derby. He won his only start as a 2-year-old in a maiden special event at Churchill Downs in November.
"I haven't felt this emotional in 20 years since Strike the Gold," said the ever-emotional Zito, referring to his 1991 Kentucky Derby winner. "I've been around long enough to know how special he is with just four races -- from one 6 1/2-furlong maiden race as a 2-year-old."
Dialed In also won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream in January in just his second lifetime start. That win, along with Sunday's victoty, qualifies Dialed In to take down a $5.5 million bonus offered by track owner Frank Stronach should he add the Preakness Stakes on May 21 to his victory list.
"We've been to the (Kentucky) Derby several times and look forward to doing it again," LaPenta said. "We almost won it with Ice Box, but it does feel special to finish second. The goal is the Derby, but it certainly is nice to consider Stronach's $5.5 million bonus."
In other Derby news:
-- Trainer Todd Pletcher opted not to send Travelin Man on to the Florida Derby after his runner-up finish in the Hutcheson Stakes in just his second career start, instead opting for Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Swale Stakes at 7 furlongs, also at Gulfstream Park. Against just four rivals, Travelin Man was not tested, sitting just off the pace until called upon by jockey John Velazquez, then shooting right to the lead and a 2-length victory, ridden out. The Kentucky-bred Trippi colt was clocked in 1:21.94. Indiano finished second, followed by Little Drama, Razmataz and Megalith. Pletcher said Travelin Man at some point might stretch out -- possibly in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. "I don't know that he is limited to sprinting," the conditioner said. "He's rateable and can relax. We'll stretch him out at some point."
With Stay Thirsty finishing up the track in the Florida Derby, even more pressure is on current Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo in his planned start in next weekend's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Both are trained by Pletcher for owner Mike Repole. Uncle Mo put in his final work for the Wood Sunday morning at Palm Meadows training center and Repole quoted Pletcher as calling the effort "perfect." "He doesn't use the word perfect too much, but he said perfect," Repole told Daily Racing Form.
The coming weekend schedule features the Wood Memorial, the Santa Anita Derby and the Illinois Derby and should go a long way toward defining the field for the May 7 Run for the Roses. After those races, only the Arkansas Derby and the Toyota Blue Grass a week later remain as realistic preps for Churchill Downs. Last-gasp possibilities would be the Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland or the Jerome in New York, both on April 23.
Thanks to a TVG sponsorship, Hawthorne Race Course has raised the purse of Saturday's 54th running of the Illinois Derby from $250,000 to $300,000. The Grade III event will take entries Wednesday with several trainers still on the fence. "The TVG Illinois Derby is our marquee race of the spring meet and we want to do everything we can to make it the most competitive race possible while continuing our run on sending winners from our race to the Derby," Hawthorne's Assistant General Manager Jim Miller said.
Kentucky Oaks preps
R Heat Lightning was forced wide on the first turn, then took back behind the pace in Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks. She advanced toward the lead with a quarter mile to run and had things all her way down the stretch to an 8 1/4-length victory. Island School and Salary Drive completed the trifecta. It's Tricky, previously undefeated in three starts, finished fourth. R Heat Lightning, a Florida-bred Trippi filly out of the Gold Fever mare Yellow Heat, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.27 under John Velazquez. R Heat Lightning, second in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, was coming off an equally dominating win in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream on Feb. 26. She now has four wins and three seconds from eight starts. "She's starting to relax more in her races," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She's not an easy filly to ride, but Johnny has gotten to know her and what to do. You're always a little concerned when they have to go wide in the first turn like that, but she was in the clear, which in the important thing … . I didn't think she got quite the respect she deserved after winning the Spinaway and finishing second in the Breeders' Cup last year, but now I think she'll be recognized at the head of the class."
In other weekend racing:
Flying Blue rallied from behind a slow pace to best Thumbs Up by 3/4 of a length in Sunday's HK Group 2 Chairman's Trophy -- a final prep for the April 25 BMW Champion's Mile. Sight Winner was third and the trio all are contenders for the Group 1 event. Viva Pataca, likely prepping for a try against Dubai World Cup winner Victoire Pisa in the Audemars Piquet QE II Cup on May 1, finished in mid-pack Sunday while racing shorter than his preferred distance. Flying Blue, an Australian-bred son of Anabaa, is trained by John Size and had the saddle services of Douglas Whyte. Should Flying Blue do well in the Champion's Mile, could he be shortened up to try the KrisFlyer International Sprint at 1,200 meters in Singapore on May 22. Flying Blue is the frequent flyer club of Air France/KLM. KrisFlyer is the loyalty program for Singapore Airlines, which sponsors the race.
Awesome Maria certainly lived up to her name in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Rampart Stakes, tracking the pace into the stretch turn before accelerating sharply and drawing off to win by 8 lengths. Successsful Song hove into contention entering the turn and beat the rest. Defending Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic champ Unrivaled Belle, in her seasonal debut, had nothing left in the lane and finished third. Persuading, the early leader, got home fourth. Awesome Maria, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Maria's Mon filly, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.09. "She was really good today," said winning rider John Velazquez. "Around the first turn she relaxed really well for me and then was there for me when I needed her. There was no question in my mind about the extra distance going into this race. The only question was: Would she relax? She did." Winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who had five winners on the card, said Awesome Maria "just reached a new level in her training since we got her down here this winter." He said he will target the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 18 with a potential intermediate stop in the May 21 Shuvee on the same oval.
S.S. Stone, owned, trained and ridden by the same team that handles Dialed In, rallied from mid-pack to win Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Skip Away Stakes by 2 lengths over Jackson Bend. Colizeo finished third as the favorite after showing the way early. S.S. Stone, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Zito's 2004 Belmont winner, Birdstone, got the 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:55.73. Entered for a $20,000 tag at Gulfstream on Jan. 5, S.S. Stone now has four straight wins. Zito said the claiming start left him "on pins and needles that we might lose him. But he won and nobody took him. He's just gone from one step to the next and here we are today. He's (by) Birdstone, so that makes his success even more emotional for me." He said he will look around for a next race.
Little Mike led from the start in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Emirates Airlines Appleton Stakes and held well to win by a length over Riviera Cocktail. Asphalt finished third and Nicantor finished seventh of eight. Little Mike, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Spanish Steps gelding out of the Wavering Monarch mare Hay Jude, got the mile on firm turf in 1:32.87 with Joe Bravo in the irons. "Little Mike just makes anyone who sits on his back look good," Bravo said. "I don't think they let him go in the first quarter mile. He's just so fast out of the gate that it discourages any of the other horses from going with him. He's the man." Winning trainer Dale Romans said he will point Little Mike toward the Grade I Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs on May 7.
Longhunter, reserved well off the pace until the stretch turn in Saturday's $62,000 Alligator Alley Stakes for 3-year-olds, quickly took charge when let run by jockey Julien Leparoux and coasted home an easy winner. Derby Kitten made up a lot of ground in the stretch to finish second, a length back, and Stormy the Cat was third. Longhunter, a British-bred Halling colt, finished the mile on firm turf in 1:35.39.
Capt. Candyman Can won a three-way stretch battle to capture Sunday's $67,400 Sir Shackleton Stakes. At the wire, the 5-year-old Candy Ride gelding was a neck better than Regal Ransom with Nathan's H Q another half length in arrears. Capt. Candyman Can, with Julien Leparoux up, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.22.
Inherit the Gold stalked pacesetting Understatement to the quarter pole in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Excelsior Handicap, then quickly took over, opening with every stride and winning off by 6 1/4 lengths. Modern Cowboy was along for second and Understatement faded to finish third. Inherit the Gold, a 4-year-old, New York-bred Gold Token gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.34 with Eddie Castro up. It was the fifth straight win for Inherit the Gold, who transferred dominant inner-track form to the main track. "There was only one horse with speed in the race, so I could stay fairly close," Castro said. "I rode him the same today. I didn't want to change. When I asked him to move, he did. He's getting better. It was a tough race today. There were a lot of nice horses."
Midnight Visit rallied by pacesetting Those Lion Eyes in deep stretch in Sunday's $60,000 Love Is Eternal Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies, winning by a half length. Jackie Mo finished third. Midnight Visit, a daughter of Henny Hughes, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.40 with Mike Luzzi in the irons.
Gilded Gem came from last of five to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Las Flores Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths over Subsidized. Silver Swallow finished third and the favorite, Mother Ruth, faded from the lead to get home fourth. Gilded Gem, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Smarty Jones mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.22 with Joel Rosario aboard. Bob Baffert saddled Gilded Gem, a half-sister to Drosselmeyer, Subsidized and Mother Ruth. "I thought Mother Ruth was going to keep going, but she started getting tired at the end," Baffert said. "Gilded Gem likes to sit way back there. Rosario fits her well. He's a very patient rider. The other filly ran well to get up for second. We'd have liked to be 1-2-3 but we'll take it at 1-2."
Amazombie relaxed off the pace early in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Potrero Grande Stakes, came four-wide around the leaders into the lane and held off Captain Cherokee late to win by a head. Ventana was third and the favorite, Crown of Thorns, checked in seventh with a dull effort. Amazombie, a 5-year-old, California-bred Northern Afleet gelding, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:14.26 with Mike Smith up. "This horse is the real deal," winning trainer Bill Spawr said. "Nobody believes in him. He's better on dirt. He's a dirt horse. He came into this just perfect. If you don't understand perfect, just look at his body."
Don's Folly kicked off the stakes season at the Toronto-area oval with a late rally from far back to win Saturday's $100,000 Debut Stakes by 3/4 of a length. Daniel Be Good, with newly named Eurico Da Silva up, also ran well late, led briefly and settled for second. D's Legend Storm finished third. Don's Folly, a 6-year-old, Ontario-bred son of Tethra, ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 57.53 seconds under Emma-Jayne Wilson. "He's a very consistent horse," assistant trainer Jeff Bowen said. "He overcame all three biases today. He runs from off the pace. He wasn't winter trained. And he wasn't trained by Wesley Ward." Ward saddled five of the day's 10 winners.
Blushing Dixie engaged pacesetting Miss Luann at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Fairway Fun Stakes for fillies and mares and got home first by a neck. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to La Gran Bailadora in third. Blushing Dixie, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Dixie Union mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.88 for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. "I followed the horse I thought was the one to beat," Bridgmohan said. "There was room on the inside so I went ahead and let her run up in there. She dug in and fought all the way to the wire. She gutted it out real well."
Comedero ran to his notices in Saturday's $50,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-breds, leading all the way to a 10 3/4-length victory. Toga's Storm briefly tried to go with the winner but then settled in to beat the others. Ile St. Roy was third. Comedero, a 4-year-old Posse gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.17 with Robby Albarado up.
The Mallard Man ducked between horses early in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Arkansas Breeders' Stakes, then drew clear to win by 3 lengths over Devil and a Half. Ain't He a Pistol finished third. The Mallard Man, a 5-year-old Sunday Break gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.38 with Calvin Borel aboard.
All About Allie pressed the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, got by Bikini Bella in the stretch in won by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Shank ran third. All About Allie, a 3-year-old daughter of Storm and a Half, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.39 with Cliff Berry in the irons.
D Day rallied from off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Shine Again Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, came out for running room in the stretch and easily drew clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Grandiloquent was second and Amelia's Brio finished third. D Day, a 6-year-old Polish Miner mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.08 with Jeremy Rose in the irons.
School Lass stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Royal North Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, found room along the rail turning for home and drew clear, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Startin Something. Holleran finished third. School Lass, a Private School filly out of the Air Forbes Won mare Forbes Diamond, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.41 under Jacob Radosevich.
News and notes:
Well, Black Tie Affair didn't make the cut again this year. Nonetheless, there are worthy nominees for induction this year into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. First-time finalists are jockeys Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez and John Velazquez and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Also on the ballot are previous finalists jockey Alex Solis, trainers Gary Jones and Robert Wheeler and horses Open Mind, Safely Kept and Sky Beauty. A 16-member nominating committee selected the finalists from 80 candidates suggested by everyone from fans to industry participants. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years, and jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Racehorses must have been retired for five years. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. A separate Historic Review Committee is assigned to consider candidates whose careers were completed more than 25 years ago. Results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced May 13.
Biofuel was named Horse of the Year and top 3-year-old filly in Friday's Sovereign Awards announcement by the Jockey Club of Canada. Biofuel, bred by Brerton Jones in Kentucky, won four stakes events in Canada during 2010. Other winners: Jockey, Eurico Da Silva; Apprentice Jockey, Omar Moreno; Trainer, Roger Attfield; Owner, Sam-Son Farms; Breeder, Adena Springs; Broodmare, Destroy; 2-year-old filly, Delightful Mary; 2-year-old Male, Madman Diaries; 3-year-old Male, Big Red Mike; Older Female, Impossible Time; Older Male, Sand Cove; Female Sprinter, Indian Apple Is; Male Sprinter; Hollywood Hit; Female Turf Horse, Miss Keller; Male Turf Horse, Grand Adventure.