Dialed In (outside) in the Florida Derby.

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Dialed In (outside) in the Florida Derby.
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Zito: No Rush to Kentucky With Dialed In

Trainer Nick Zito is emotional about Florida Derby winner.

Although Dialed In  established himself as one of the favorites for the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with his win in the Florida Derby, trainer Nick Zito said there are no plans to send the son of Mineshaft  to Kentucky anytime soon.

“I think I’m going to stick around here,” Zito said the morning of April 4, one day after Dialed In roared to victory in the $1 million race at Gulfstream Park. “I’m not going to ship him to Kentucky right away.”

Zito, who has saddled two Kentucky Derby winners--Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994), said the Robert LaPenta-owned colt would remain at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach, Fla., for two weeks, maybe longer.

“This particular horse, I’ve become attached to,” said Zito, who was nearly overcome with emotions following the Florida Derby victory. “I’ve had a lot of great horses, but with this particular horse there’s something about him, the horse’s courage, the way he is. More importantly, you’re not supposed to do what he’s done in his young career. It’s almost impossible to do the things he’s done.
“When will you see a young horse by Mineshaft go six and a half furlongs first time out, get left, get stopped, and win? When would you see a horse entered (for his second start), being scratched, then run in the Holy Bull and win? When would you see a horse run with older horses and a stablemate and get criticism--for what I don’t know–after running the last eighth in 12-and-2 in his third start of his whole career? Then he’s got to live up to the expectations–like the preachers say, ‘great expectations great disappointment.’ Well, he didn’t disappoint (Sunday).

“You get emotional. He defies a speed favoring track–he defies it,” Zito continued. “The track was favoring speed. We know he did something again special. We just hope he stays healthy. It looks like he came back fine.”

Soldat , who finished fifth as the favorite in the Florida Derby, may leave Palm Meadows earlier than originally planned.

“We had planned on staying here right until the end of April, because we like this facility and track so much, but we’ll have to talk about that,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who might decide to ship to Kentucky earlier to acclimate to the Churchill track.

The first topic of conversation with Soldat’s owners will be whether to continue on to the Derby following their colt’s unexpected dull performance after winning his two previous starts at Gulfstream Park, including a two-length victory in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II).

“My gut tells me, ‘Yeah, go on to the Kentucky Derby; you’ve got the earnings and that’s the first race he wasn’t first or second,’ but I’ll have to talk to all the owners,” said McLaughlin, who reported the 3-year-old son of  War Front  emerged from the Florida Derby in good shape.

Soldat, who scored both of his Gulfstream victories with dominating front-running performances, broke from the rail post position in the Florida Derby and was outgunned early by Shackleford  and three other colts. The McLaughlin-trained colt, who was successful on turf during his 2-year-old campaign, was stuck on the inside until the stretch and never fired under Alan Garcia.

“It was the scenario that we feared might happen. He broke well, but second, third, fourth jump they kind of cleared him. So he took a lot of dirt. Going a mile and an eighth taking dirt is a lot different than working a half mile taking dirt,” said McLaughlin, who had worked Soldat behind horses to give him the experience of getting dirt kicked in his face. “He obviously didn’t relish it. He didn’t throw up his head and stop either, but he didn’t like it. He didn’t run terrible, fifth, but we’ll talk about whether we go on or not.”

Although disappointed by the Florida Derby result, McLaughlin was complimentary to Dialed In and the horses that finished in front of Soldat.

“Dialed in ran great; he’s a nice horse and won it,” McLaughlin said. “We finished fifth and have to lick our wounds, but we’re luckily fine.”

Meanwhile, at Gulfstream, trainer Dale Romans was making plans to ship longshot Florida Derby runner-up Shackleford  to Kentucky, hoping his horse will make the Derby field with the $200,000 in graded-earnings that he won while finishing nearly seven lengths clear of third-place finisher To Honor and Serve.

“If it gets us in, we’ll be in,” said Romans, whose colt also earned $12,000 for a distant fifth-place finish behind Soldat in the Fountain of Youth. “He gets better and better. The Fountain of Youth was an odd race. We just threw it out and acted like it never happened, and I’m glad we did because he redeemed himself (Sunday).”

Prior to his disappointment in the Fountain of Youth, Shackleford, who was ridden by Jesus Castanon in the Florida Derby, won a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5 impressively.