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Dialed In's Next Call: Kentucky Derby

Can Fl Derby winner Dialed In improve on Ice Box's 2nd-place finish in the Ky Derby?

Same connections, same track, same race, same finish—just a different horse. As in the 2010 Florida Derby (gr. I), owner Robert LaPenta and trainer Nick Zito teamed up with a confirmed closer of a colt to snag the traditional orchid wreath by a narrow margin (VIDEO). Even the winners’ pedigrees are similar, both being by sires bred on the A.P. Indy/Mr. Prospector cross out of Storm Cat-line mares. Only this time, the winner was not a 20-1 shot like Ice Box , but Dialed In , one of the favorites and now three-for-four in his brief racing career.

A son of Lane’s End stallion Mineshaft  and co-bred by Lane’s End owner William Farish along with Madeleine Pickens and Skara Glen Stables, Dialed In is the second grade I winner for his sire but is very different from the first, Discreetly Mine. Although Discreetly Mine stayed well enough to win the 2010 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) over 8 ½ furlongs in a front-running performance, his forte was speed, with his biggest win coming in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I). Dialed In, on the other hand, depends on a strong closing run to get the job done and apparently has more of a liking for distance.

The respective aptitudes of the two colts seem a bit surprising, given that Discreetly Mine is out of Alabama Stakes (gr. I) winner Pretty Discreet while Dialed In is out of grade II-placed Miss Doolittle, who raced only in sprints. Pretty Discreet, however, was quick enough to be grade I-placed twice at 2 and benefitted from a sloppy track (which she relished) in the Alabama, rolling to a front-running win in what was by far the best performance of her career. As her other foals include the brilliant miler Discreet Cat, it would seem that her progeny reflected rather than diverged from her true proclivities.

Miss Doolittle, on the other hand, was never tried at longer distances, though she had two half siblings (both by the staying Theatrical) who were winners at nine furlongs or more and, indeed, needed a route to win at all. As a daughter of Storm Cat out of 1992 champion juvenile filly Eliza, by the sprinting Mt. Livermore, Miss Doolittle looked like a miler on paper. Eliza, though, was effective enough over nine furlongs to place in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) behind the high-class filly Dispute and in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) against males; further, her half brother Dinard (by Strawberry Road) won the 1991 Santa Anita Derby. Nor can Mt. Livermore be dismissed as a pure speed influence as he sired a number of horses that could handle nine or 10 furlongs well, headed by Canadian Horses of the Year Peaks and Valleys (1995) and Mt. Sassafras (1996).

Daring Bidder, the dam of Eliza, never raced but is a daughter of 1966 co-champion handicap male Bold Bidder, a winner of several major stakes at 10 furlongs and sire of Kentucky Derby winners Cannonade (1974) and Spectacular Bid (1979). “The Bid,” also the winner of the Preakness Stakes, is still widely regarded as the best horse ever to complete the Derby-Preakness double without sweeping the Triple Crown, winning 26 of his 30 starts and earning championship titles every year he raced.

Daring Bidder was produced from the Prince Dare mare Daring Step, one of four stakes winners produced by the Air Hero mare Step Daughter from matings to a series of modest sires. None were top-class runners, but considering that Step Daughter was unraced, that she was by an indifferent sire, and that her dam, her granddam, and her great-granddam were all undistinguished as both runners and producers, her broodmare career was nothing short of exceptional. In earlier days, Step Daughter’s family (a branch of Bruce Lowe Family 37) had produced 1884 Preakness Stakes winner Knight of Ellerslie and the good handicap horse Eon.

While the distaff side of Dialed In’s pedigree can be said to represent a renaissance for his female family, his sire Mineshaft combines some of the most fashionable—and talented—strains of the 20th century. Sired by 1992 Horse of the Year and subsequent leading sire A.P. Indy, Mineshaft is the best of five stakes winners from five named foals produced by multiple grade I winner Prospectors Delite (by Mr. Prospector). Prospectors Delite, in turn, is one of seven stakes winners (three of grade/group I stature) produced from the Hoist the Flag mare Up the Flagpole, a winner of the Delaware Oaks (gr. II). The female line is a flourishing branch of the great La Troienne family descended from Striking, a stakes-winning full sister to 1945 Horse of the Year Busher and to Mr. Busher, rated the second best juvenile male of 1948 in a career cut short by injury.

After winning four grade I races and Horse of the Year honors in 2003, Mineshaft got off to a slower than expected start at stud but appears to be gaining momentum, with 20 stakes winners having emerged from the 304 named foals of his first four crops of racing age. While his progeny so far have not stayed quite as well as those of his sire, he is the sire of 2010 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Fly Down and Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) winner Redding Colliery, so he is certainly capable of getting a horse capable of staying 10 furlongs. Whether Dialed In can get that trip has yet to be seen, and his closing style is vulnerable to both lack of pace and traffic problems. But he has developed into a worthy contender for this year’s Classics, and that is all anyone can ask at this stage of the game.