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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Not Quite A Locomotive, But...

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.

But no.

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.


Amateurcapper said...


I have DIALED IN "winning" the 3rd and 4th 1/4 miles while tiring at a slower rate than the rest, relying on momentum he gathered with a :23.05 second 1/4 to win the race. I'm not sure his final 3f in just under :38 bodes well for the Derby.

There's also development I'm concerned with...a Feb. foal for Zito debuting in Nov., had to have some physical issues. Lugged in in start #1 when breaking maiden.

Then, he worked every 9 days prior to Holy Bull win. However, had only two works before allowance 2nd, including 14 day gap between works. Since that race, there was only 1 4f breeze (bullet :47 2/5, 1/19) on 3/24...that's just one spin in 4 weeks.

In the Florida Derby, he'd have won by at least 3 if he hadn't gone back to lugging in.

So, do you think Zito is crying because the colt won despite the ginger handling? Could DIALED IN be fighting a health issue? Is Zito preparing the horse for slaughter at the behest of his best client, Robert LaPenta, while ignoring his instincts? Here was one of Zito's pre-race comments on Feb. 1:

“It’s amazing what he’s done. It is amazing,” said Zito, who saddled Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994) for Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victories. “I’m still a firm believer in developing horses. I’m still a believer in that. It’s important to get the seasoning. But the modern-day owner has a different philosophy, and a lot of times he’s proven right. You see these horses break their maidens and win stakes. Lightly raced horses do things they never used to do.”

Jack Shinar's post-race article said this about Zito:

Zito was a bundle of nerves in the paddock before the Florida Derby, fidgeting awkwardly and taking deep breaths as Dialed In made his way around the ring.

Clearly not the way the trainer of the best horse, prepared as well as a Hall of Fame conditioner can, acts prior to a race like this.

So, when does the clock strike midnight for DILLED IN, clearly a Cinderella story and not Zito's ideal preparation of a race horse...let alone for the Kentucky Derby.

Amateurcapper said...

Oops, misspelled DIALED IN at the spell check for comments. Sorry.

Figless said...

In a perfect world would Zito be running this horse in a 20 horse field on the first Saturday in May? Certainly not, but who would?

I think you are reading too much into this comment and his fidgeting, Zito is just a hyper guy and is alwasy nervous before a race. If Mott were fidgeting, now that would be a story.

Anonymous said...

Good, thoughtful post, Amateurcapper. I think you bring up some interesting analysis, though Figless is right that Zito is generally a bundle of nerves. With his consistency and running style it's hard not to think Dialed In won't factor into the stretch run a month from now, but at the price he becomes more of a use than a key for me. I didn't think his stretch run was particularly powerful and the race came back really weak. The Derby will once again be an impossible race to handicap. Let's at least hope it can be contested on a dry racetrack this year after last year's debacle. -jp

Anonymous said...

"Big Test" for Uncle Mo? From today's DRF:

"Uncle Mo is scheduled to ship to New York by plane on Tuesday. Entries for the Wood Memorial will be taken on Wednesday. As of Sunday, the field was expected to include Gotham second- and third-place finishers Norman Asbjornson and Toby’s Corner, restricted stakes winner Preachintothedevil, Duca, Isn’t He Perfect, Starship Caesar, and possibly Full of Scoundrels and Son of Posse"

Wow, what a shit-ass field. -jp

Alan Mann said...

jp - I think the "big test" must be for his plane to get here on time with some severe weather in the forecast.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about this year's Wood Memorial is that I'll be there, unless it rains. -jp

Figless said...

Yeah, I looked at these horses on the NYRA Stakes Nomination pp's and none is going to give him a battle. I guess the connections can maybe take him back and let him get some dirt in his face before he runs away and wins by ten.

Baffert was making some noise about bringing Jaycito east, that might make it interesting but have not read anything recently so it must have been gamesmanship.

El Angelo said...

Personally, I would not completely give up on To Honor and Serve just yet. There are a slew of horses that for whatever reason just don't like Gulfstream. He could be one of them, and would be live in the Derby at a good price (20-1 or so), given that the competition does not appear stiff this year.

Erin said...

Agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Been scratching my head at the hyperbole since Sunday.

R Heat Lightning came home faster and looked a lot better doing it the day before. But I guess she's not a Derby horse, so who cares right? Sheesh..

jeff said...

Good call on Dialed In, Alan, but I won't be hopping aboard the R train in Louisville. The only 3 I'm considering for the top spot are Mo, Factor and Pegsaus. Would have liked the last Beyer for Pegasus to be a bit higher, but he made the million-dollar-move that race and I like him at Churchill.

Awesome Ranger comeback -- my voice still hasn't recovered from screaming -- but brutal news just announced: Cally busted his ankle blocking the Chara shot, he's done.

Oh, brother.

Indulto said...

Another thoroughly enjoyable piece. Hopefully Dialed In's fondness for GP is transferable.

After he won he Remsen, I expected to see To Honor and Serve come back for the Wood. Maybe he just doesn't like GP or warm weather.

Gomez was 0 for 4 on Mott trainees Sunday, so maybe Desormeaux isn't the only jock to shock with Mott stock.

Bring on Borel.

Figless said...

"After he won he Remsen, I expected to see To Honor and Serve come back for the Wood. "

Good point, especially after his previous dismal performance at GP.

He would be odds on for 2nd in the Wood, and if Mo stubbed his toe the logical winner.

As sad as the supporting cast is in the Wood, it is even sadder that two of them will earn G1 black type and probably stud careers (I can see the add already - G1 placed Norman Asbjornsen standing for only $10,000 LF in New York!) and one will likely earn a starting berth in the KY Derby.

ljk said...

Why not Desormeaux on THAS?

El Angelo said...

Aqueduct's only day of real racing in the spring and they have three $7500 claimers? That's just sad.

Figless said...

Sad indeed, guess we should be greatful there are no maiden claimers :)

But everyone is struggling for horses, Santa Anita, despite have a turf option, also carded a 7k claimer and a maiden claimer on Santa Anita Derby Day, and I suspect Oaklawn will need to do something similar.

Its going to get worse before it gets better, crops have been way down the last few years.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if SA didn't raise takeout so much, they wouldn't be in this position. -jp

Anonymous said...

Horse racing is the sport of kings. In lean times the rest may not have enough to go around. Racing will ALWAYS survive.

DiscreetPicks said...

The biggest problem with Dialed In with regard to the Derby (as i see it) is going to be traffic. He took way back again this time, the same way he did in the Holy Bull. I guess it made some sense considering the expected fast pace, but the pace scenario for the Derby figures to line up pretty fast as well, so i'm not sure how close we can reasonably expect this horse to be in the early going. And it's a tough nut to crack when you're asking your horse to weave through that kind of clusterfuck. Plus, he honestly hasn't looked quite as effective around two turns, though he's still a upper-echelon contender the way things stand.

Right now, i'd have to say i'm leaning towards Premier Pegasus as the most likely winner of the Derby. He has good tactical speed, and he showed a tremendous turn of foot in the San Felipe that might serve him very well in a race like the Derby. He also seemed to move way forward in his initial start around two turns, which is always a good sign. Incidentally, his brother Street Hero was no slouch himself. Very well-bred colt, who frankly would be getting a whole lot more attention if he were trained by a Baffert or Pletcher type

Alan Mann said...

Premier Pegasus is, I presume, now out of the Derby.

DiscreetPicks said...

Yeah, i was just coming back to post blackout that. Just read it after 5 minutes after my post. Great timing, lol.

Figless said...

Shame about Peg, nice horse, does not sound career threatening thankfully, would have been a good story at the Derby.