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Apr 08, 2011

Zito has real chance for third Kentucky Derby

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's been 17 years since Nick Zito of New York City trained a winner of the biggest thoroughbred race in the world. The Hall of Fame conditioner might just have found himself the best three- year-old in the country.

Nick Zito has two wins of the Kentucky Derby on his resume. He sent out Strike the Gold to win the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in 1991 and just three years later found the winner's circle again with Go for Gin. Last year he saddled Florida Derby champ Ice Box to finish second behind Super Saver.

Zito and owner Robert LaPenta once again have a top notch colt in Dialed In.

"I haven't felt this emotional in 20 years since Strike the Gold," said Zito. 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 two-year-old."

LaPenta and Zito had Dialed In prepared perfectly for the 60th Florida Derby. There was some question about their running the three-year-old in an allowance race last month versus older horses. The colt was second behind stablemate Equestrio.

"I think his last race really helped him," winning jockey Julien Leparoux stated. "I loved his last race. It was a very good learning race. He learned to run between horses and take dirt in his face and it all paid off."

Dialed In went 1 1/8-miles in that allowance race where he was last in the five horse field and made a rally to get within a half-length of the four- year-old.

"Even when he got beat by Equestrio, a good four-year-old, it was like a Grade 3 race," Zito noted. "And then today (Saturday) to beat horses that have won races like the Remsen and Fountain of Youth, you just can't do what he's done.

"We had a plan. Julien did what we asked him to (rate off pace). It was a gamble with the speed bias, but I knew he was capable of running this type of race. I knew he could do this if he stayed healthy, He's amazing and I'm blessed. Once he got in position (to rally) I felt good. I've thought all along he was one of the top three-year-olds in the country and he proved it."

After a hot pace was set in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, Dialed In rallied to post a head victory over 68-1 longshot Shackleford. LaPenta's colt covered the nine-furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.07.

While the Run for the Roses on May 7 is the immediate goal for Dialed In, he is eligible for the Preakness 5.5 bonus. Without even running in the Kentucky Derby, if the colt were to win the Preakness Stakes on May 21, his owner would receive a $5 million bonus and Zito a $500,000 add-on.

"We've been to the (Kentucky) Derby several times and look forward to doing it again. We almost won it with Ice Box, but it does feel special to finish second," LaPenta said. "The goal is the Derby, but it certainly is nice to consider (Frank) Stronach's $5.5 million bonus."

Last summer MI Developments Inc. (MID), the majority owner of the Maryland Jockey Club, announced a pair of bonus programs centered around Pimlico Race Course's premier three-year old races, called the Preakness 5.5 and Black-Eyed Susan 2.2.

Meanwhile, Dialed In will train at Palm Meadows Training Center near Gulfstream Park.

"This particular horse, I've become attached to. I've had a lot of great horses, but with this particular horse there's something about him, the horse's courage, the way he is," said Zito. "More importantly, you're not supposed to do what he's done in his young career. It's almost impossible to do the things he's done.

"I think I'm going to stick around here. I'm not going to ship him to Kentucky right away," said Zito. "We'll stick around here for a few weeks, maybe more."



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