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Mar 11, 2011

Dialed In Loses his Florida Derby Prep

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Nick Zito desperately wanted to find a two-turn, 1 1/8-mile race for Dialed In as a prep for the $1 million Florida Derby, preferably sometime in early March. He got what he desired this past Sunday at Gulfstream Park, but he had to enter another one of his own horses just to fill the race. Ironically, the horse he chose to enter pulled off the colossal upset sending Dialed In to defeat for the first time in three lifetime starts.

Equestrio, the 3-1 second choice, got the best of the 1-5 favorite by one half-length, a margin that would have been more if the four-year-old hadn't veered out sharply approaching the wire. The final time for the nine furlongs (run in the rain) was 1:51 with Dialed In putting up a quick 12 1/5 last eighth, and a decent 36 4/5 final three furlongs-solid numbers for a first trip around two turns.

One factor that must be addressed is how Dialed In came into the race. It appears he was not fully charged due to lack of activity as the colt recorded just two workouts 14 days apart on Feb. 11 and Feb 25.

It will be very interesting to see if his Future Wager Pool 2 odds jump dramatically from the 8-1 number in Pool 1. On one hand, bettors might conclude the colt isn't as talented as first thought, noting the fact he failed to win a five-horse allowance event at short odds. The second-place finish might place many of his followers in a panic, something that could very easily have a huge effect on his Pool 2 odds when the next Future Wager comes around this weekend.

On the other hand, he did race against older horses, something three-year-olds rarely do this early in the year. He also got a bit of an education for the first time in his racing career, having to sit between horses extremely close to the lead after coming from well off the pace in his prior two starts. Look for him to revert back to that style in the Florida Derby since that field will be larger and the pace will be faster.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect one should take from Sunday was how well Dialed In broke from the gate. In his earlier races, he lost valuable ground at the start, something that could prove fatal come Kentucky Derby time. This race showed a vast improvement in that department, which should carry him forward into the Florida Derby.


Stay Thirsty made his 2011 debut a winning one in Saturday's Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct as the 9-10 favorite defeated 47-1 longshot Norman Asbjornson by 3 1/4-lengths.

There were both positives and negatives in the victory. On the plus side, Stay Thirsty rebounded from a terrible start, lunging out of the gate, to eventually garner the win. He also pulled away from the field with ease inside the final sixteenth of a mile.

However, this was the third time in five lifetime starts that Stay Thirsty failed to break adequately from the gate, something that needs to be corrected if he is to compete with the big boys in the Kentucky Derby. More importantly, it took him almost an entire furlong to move past the likes of The Fed Eased and Norman Asbjornson, and that was with jockey Ramon Dominguez whipping him like crazy.

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event was 1:44 3/5 over a track labeled fast. The Gotham was the only race carded around two turns so it might be hard to judge how fast the time really was. Regardless, it was the slowest running since the Grade III stakes race was switched to 1 1/16-miles in 2006.

Furthermore, don't expect any of the other six horses to continue on the Derby trail as they are clearly third-rate three-year-olds.

On the bright side, this was Stay Thirsty's first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile so it's doubtful he was at his best. Still, the son of Bernardini has a ton of growing up to do, and with only one more prep race before the Derby (the Florida Derby on Apr. 3) the odds of him being a huge factor on the first Saturday in May are extremely remote.

As for the others, Toby's Corner, the 8-5 second choice, had no excuse for his third-place finish. The Whirlaway winner was in perfect striking position heading into the stretch and came up empty when the real running began.

One horse to keep an eye on is Nacho Saint. The son of Yes It's True punched the gate open with his head and subsequently hesitated at the start. He was also in tight quarters on the rail through the stretch before finishing fourth, beaten less than two lengths for second.


The jury was out on Positive Response after a disappointing third in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields last month. Nevertheless, the William Morey-trained three-year-old responded with authority in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park Saturday night.

Breaking from post six, the California Derby winner shot to the front and controlled the pace throughout en route to a dominating seven-length win. Unfortunately for Positive Response, the horses he defeated might have been worse than those Stay Thirsty knocked off in the Gotham.

Moreover, all of his eight career starts were run on synthetics meaning it's doubtful he'll be considered a Kentucky Derby candidate. His trainer even stated he might not even send the horse into the Grade III Spiral Stakes on Mar. 26 if many potential Derby starters fill the entry box for the $500,000 event.


There have been many exceptional three-year-old performances this season from Dialed In's Holy Bull to Flashpoint's Hutcheson, The Factor's two wins, and even maiden winners Bind and Cal Nation. Now there's another name to add to the list - Wilburn.

Another in the long line of three-year-olds (To Honor and Serve, Stay Thirsty, Crossbow, Heron Lake) sired by Bernardini, Wilburn won his debut at Santa Anita by 3 1/4-lengths, coming within a second off the track record for 6 1/2- furlongs.

The half-brother to Beethoven (the 2008 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner) might not be able to stretch his speed further than eight or nine furlongs, but he looked awfully talented blowing past Chico d'Oro this past Saturday.


1) Uncle Mo; 2) Dialed In; 3) Soldat; 4) Brethren; 5) To Honor and Serve; 6) Sway Away; 7) Bench Points; 8) The Factor; 9) Stay Thirsty; 10) Jaycito; 11) Runflatout; 12-T) Mucho Macho Man and Santiva

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