Dialed In has a chance to become The Six Million Dollar Horse.
A win in the $1 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore would net Dialed In a $5.5 million bonus, in addition to the $600,000 winner's share.
Dialed In is eligible for the bonus thanks to earlier 2011 victories in the Holy Bull (gr. III) and the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. MI Developments, parent company of Pimlico and Gulfstream, put up the bonus.
The potential $6.1 million in single-race earnings for Dialed In would set a North American record, eclipsing the $5.884 million earned by Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Nick Zito said the potential for a lucrative payday isn't his focus and that the bonus won't alter his preparations for Dialed In, who was favored in the Kentucky Derby but finished eighth.
“For me, honestly, I'm telling you now—you could give mine to charity—as long as the feed man don't mind,'' Zito said. “He could take his and you could give the rest to charity. You've gotta pay your bills, that's what it's about. But I'm blessed, as you know, and I'm not going to change. I'm just grateful to have the horse.”
Zito said a work before the Preakness was unlikely for the Robert LaPenta-owned son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft . He plans to have jockey Julien Leparoux gallop the horse early next week before the colt flies to Maryland on May 18 but that Mother Nature would ultimately guide that decision.
“We'll just keep watching the weather,'' Zito said. “I guess you've got to be careful for $6 million, right? So we'll just try and be as careful as we can.”
Zito denied any assertions that he was more interested in winning the Preakness 5.5 bonus than what would have been his third Kentucky Derby. Zito's take would be $500,000 of the $5.5 million bonus, with the rest going to LaPenta.
“I can look you right through the eye, into your grandparents, into their forefathers. That's not me,” he said. “There's no guarantees in racing, number one. So nobody's that smart, including me. Second of all, the Derby, in my opinion, is worth three times that amount.”
Dialed In, the 5-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby, was squeezed somewhat at the start and the notorious late runner was last of 19 horses after three-quarters of a mile. The 1:13.40 for the leaders of the race at that point was the slowest since 1947, meaning closers like Dialed In were at a disadvantage. Dialed In began making his run, finishing the last half-mile in a little more than :47 seconds, a fractional time that racetrackers have suggested is the fastest since Secretariat came home in :46 2/5 seconds to win in 1973.
Zito said he had a good conversation with LaPenta following the race and said the owner looked forward to the second race in the Triple Crown.
“The house is half-built,'' Zito said. “Now he wants to finish the job.”
Dialed In is not the only one who could claim a bonus in the Preakness. Shackleford , fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is eligible for a consolation bonus of $550,000 by virtue of his appearance in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream and his second-place finish in the Florida Derby behind Dialed In.
Trainer Dale Romans didn't know about the consolation possibility until Wednesday.
“We were going either way, it's just a little more incentive,'' Romans said. “You're going to train to win, either for a million or a half million.”
Shackleford, owned by Michael Lauffer and W.D Cubbedge, galloped a mile and a half Thursday and will not work prior to the Preakness. He will fly to Baltimore May 18 and school in the paddock and starting gate at Pimlico.
Both Zito and Romans expected a more hotly contested pace in the Preakness with the addition of Flashpoint and Dance City. Romans said the addition of the newcomers would not affect the tactics of the speedy Shackleford.
“We're going to run our race. It doesn't matter who's in it or around us,” Romans said. “We'll be either on the lead or very close to it.”