Joe Drape reported in the Times that Nick Zito was in tears as [Dialed In] got a head in front of the long shot Shackleford at the wire of the Florida Derby. At first, I thought maybe he was crying because his colt needed nearly every step of the homestretch to just inch by an exhausted 68-1 shot who took nearly 14 seconds to get the final furlong.
He was thinking of Strike the Gold, a colt with a similar from-the-clouds style who gave Zito his first Kentucky Derby victory 20 years ago. “Horses just don’t do what he’s done,” Zito said in his signature raspy-voiced fuhgeddaboudit tone. [NYT]Sounds like kind of a Mrs. Genter moment, though of course there were no national TV cameras anywhere within sight. Can't blame Nick for being excited, and Strike the Gold seems a fair comparison, in terms of running style at the very least. (Strike the Gold ran second, to Fly So Free (and ahead of 3rd place Hansel) in the Florida Derby, and then won the Blue Grass on his way to the Derby, his 5th race of that year.)
I don't know however if I would quite say, as Drape wrote, that Dialed In powered down the stretch like a locomotive. 13.09 seconds for the last furlong is pretty OK, but not in the locomotive category; last 3/8ths in 38.24 is maybe more like the R train on the local track in Queens during the evening rush.
There's rarely much nuance in mainstream reporting of horse racing. From reading Drape's piece, one might think this was a Secretariat-type performance against an all-star field. In fact, he struggled to get by a spent front-runner in a race which, more than falling apart, never really came together. There were highly disappointing efforts by favored Soldat, Stay Thirsty, and even in my opinion, To Honor and Serve, ponderously ridden by Gomez, and a horse who to me is one that has not at all followed through on his two-year old form; never a good sign, no matter what Mott says about being happy with the race. Dialed In earned a Beyer of 93, a good 6-8 points lower than one might like to see from him at this point.
Having said all that though, I do really like the horse, picked him here, and consider him to be a legitimate contender at Churchill. He ran some quick middle fractions (23.31 and 23.63) to keep close, which could explain the mediocre come-home time (and suggest that Leparoux could have been even more patient). And, most importantly, remember that this was only his 4th career race, so he presumably has plenty of room for further improvement under the care of a trainer who has surely shown that he knows how to get them ready for a particular, and particularly, big race.
- Oh baby!
The Rangers' incredible comeback win against a solid Bruins' squad, their second victory in two days over two of the top teams in the East, reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to three points - either earned by New York in their last two games, or not by Carolina in their last three. All of us Blueshirt fans fervently hope that a playoff spot is in hand before the terrifying matchup with the Devils in the final game of the season on Saturday afternoon.