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Apr 08, 2011

Dial V for Victory

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It took a little over one minute and 50 seconds, but Dialed In stamped himself as Uncle Mo's main challenger with a victory in the $1 million Florida Derby. The son of Mineshaft edged 68-1 shot Shackleford by a head to become the year's first three-year-old to win two graded stakes on the dirt at one mile or more. Back on Jan. 30, he had won the Holy Bull Stakes, also at Gulfstream Park.

Dialed In needed to rebound from an earlier loss (an allowance race he failed to win as the 1-5 favorite) and that he did by powering his way from last to first earning $600,000 for the win. He is now second behind Uncle Mo on the graded earnings list at $840,000.

Some bettors shied away from Dialed In as the Nick Zito-trained colt went off as the 5-2 second choice. The reasoning behind it had a lot to do with how Gulfstream Park was playing on Sunday. The first seven winners on dirt were either on the lead or within 1 1/2-lengths of the pacesetter after the first half-mile. And it wasn't because all the favorites jumped to an early lead and won either, since two of the seven winners paid over $20 and a third returned $12.60.

Dialed In defied the odds with his come from behind, last-to-first victory. Still, a lot of people have knocked how he needed 38 seconds to run his final three-eighths of a mile, and 13 seconds for his final eighth. Those folks are missing the fact he ran his second and third quarters in a brisk 47 seconds.

I know that one cannot compare times from different days at different tracks, but it seemed the whole country was enamored with Premier Pegasus when he won the San Felipe by 7 3/4-lengths over Jaycito. The expected Santa Anita Derby favorite needed 31 2/5 seconds to run his final 2 1/2-furlongs that day, and if one adds a plausible 6 3/5 to extend the 8.5-furlong race to nine furlongs, it would have taken Premier Pegasus the same exact 38 seconds to run his final three furlongs.

Another key Florida Derby point to remember is how Dialed In defeated To Honor and Serve by almost seven-lengths, Soldat by over 10, and Stay Thirsty by over 16-lengths. That's three graded stakes winners he demolished at 1 1/8-miles. I'm not ready to anoint Dialed In as the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, but the colt has done almost everything asked of him and now has a solid five-week break before the Run for the Roses.

There's still the major question mark of how he will be able to navigate through the expected 20-horse field from last or next-to-last, something that halted Ice Box from defeating Super Saver just one year ago. However, that didn't stop Mine That Bird from accomplishing the feat back in 2009. Only time will tell to see how many more speed types will earn enough graded money to qualify for the 2011 Run for the Roses. Nevertheless, two things are certain barring injury: Dialed In will be one of the 20 and he will be either the second or third choice in the wagering on the first Saturday in May.


It will be interesting to see how Soldat bounces back from his poor fifth- place finish as the 3-2 favorite. It seemed as if trainer Kiaran McLaughlin gave jockey Alan Garcia orders to take the horse back and see how well he would run with dirt kicked in his face. Remember, the son of War Front had been on the lead each of his prior two starts.

The experiment was unsuccessful as the colt failed to improve his position from fifth-place down the backstretch as he had every chance to gain ground on the inside. It's also interesting to note that the last time a horse won the Kentucky Derby after finishing worse than fourth in his previous race came all the way back in 1957. Not only that, McLaughlin now has to think about sending the colt to the lead right out of the gate since it appears he won't lift a hoof if placed behind horses. With the likes of The Factor and other speed horses in the Derby, don't count on Soldat hitting the board.

As for To Honor and Serve, he had every chance to win the Florida Derby as he sat within a length of Shackleford throughout the entire first six-furlongs. Nevertheless, he spit the bit well before the final eighth-of-a-mile, showing he wants nothing to do with the 10-furlongs of the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Bill Mott would be wise to shelve any ideas of going to Churchill Downs with To Honor and Serve, but that is an unlikely possibility in this day and age, even for the conservative Mott.

With his second-place finish, Shackleford is currently 20th on the graded earnings list so it's doubtful he'll make it to the Derby, especially with at least five more prep races still to come for others to pass him. Still, the son of Forestry ran a big race, even if it was aided by the track conditions.


1) Uncle Mo - Still the champ until dethroned; 2) Dialed In - The logical second choice; 3) The Factor - Speed usually doesn't hold well in the Derby, but this one might be the exception; 4) Premier Pegasus - Needs to prove he can win a race that doesn't fall into his lap; 5) Jaycito - Should improve in his second start of the year, but might be too slow; 6) Soldat - Caught between a rock and a hard place for the Derby; 7) Santiva - Ran well in his 2011 debut, needs to build on it in the Blue Grass; 8) Sway Away - Will get one more start in the Arkansas Derby to show he is effective around two turns; 9) Mr. Commons - A Santa Anita Derby win gets him to Kentucky; 10) Mucho Macho Man - Had an excuse in Louisiana, but might be a notch below the big boys; 11) Rattlesnake Bridge - Lack of graded earnings are a problem, but that will change if he turns the table on Uncle Mo in the Wood; 12-T) Bench Points - Pure closer needs a top two finish in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby; 12-T) Silver Medallion - The El Camino Real Derby winner must hit the board at Santa Anita to gain required graded earnings

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