If Dialed In captures the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico, his connections will receive the largest payout in Thoroughbred racing history of $6.1 million. While most people would be excited about the prospect of such a jackpot, the dark bay or brown colt’s Hall of Fame trainer, Nick Zito, was cool, calm, and collected the day before the classic race in Maryland.
“I talk about faith,” said Zito, explaining his lack of anxiety. “I need God helping me for all this stuff. I can’t do it by myself. God has to help me, and that’s the deal in a nutshell. All the pressures you’re under, they’re not important when you really think about it.”
By finishing first, Dialed In would earn the $600,000 winner’s share of the Preakness purse. In addition, his owner, Robert LaPenta, would receive $5 million and Zito would receive $500,000 because of MI Developments’ Preakness 5.5 bonus program.
But all that money wouldn’t just be deposited in the bank and allowed to earn interest, according Zito. He promised that a significant portion of the funds would go to charitable causes.
“A whole bunch of them” will benefit, the trainer vowed. “It will be all the ones that you guys know like the (Permanantly) Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. That’s all on the record. Myself and my owner are both on board about that. He ain’t saying, ‘Shut up, I need the money,’ so he’s with me. I know I’ll do my part. I’ve got seven preachers I’ve got to give money to and then I have a long line of creditors.”
Helping horses and people in need, Zito added, should be a requirement for anybody who earns a racing bonus.
“They need to give half of it to charity; I really believe that,” he said. “And they (the charities) should be the right ones, the ones that are for good causes and for racing.”
Dialed In became eligible for the huge jackpot by capturing the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park (which, like Pimlico, is is operated by MI Developments) earlier this year. The come-from-behind son of Mineshaft finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) after being compromised by one of the slowest paces in the Run for the Roses’ history while rallying from last in the field of 19 3-year-olds.
Following such a performance, some trainers might have been tempted to change their horses' running style for the Preakness to keep them closer to the front. But Zito won’t try anything different with Dialed In even though there are millions of dollars at stake.
“I just think you just have got to run your race, no matter what happens,” Zito said. “If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose. You can’t change in the middle of it. That’s just the way it goes. It (changing a horse’s running style) has never worked for me.
"I think he (Dialed In) has got a good chance to win," the trainer continued. "He still came home with his run in the Derby, so there is nothing wrong with his style. And as you can see, the horse looks great. I can’t ask for more than that."
Zito captured the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze.
(According to Equibase, the top three all-time racing paydays for Thoroughbreds are $6 million for Victoire Pisa in the 2011 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline, UAE-I; $6 million for Gloria de Campeao in the 2010 Dubai World Cup; and $5,884,800 for Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands, gr. I.)