Triple Crown contender Dialed In got the two-turn workout he needed in a 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park allowance race March 6. What trainer Nick Zito's 1-5 favorite in the five-horse field didn't get was the victory.
The win instead went to Dialed In's stablemate, 4-year-old Equestrio, who held on by a half-length over Dialed In in spite of ducking out badly in deep stretch.
The final time for the $59,300 optional claiming event for "non-winners of two other than maiden or claiming" was a slow 1:51.12. The track was rated fast while the race was contested under cloudy skies and a steady rain.
Unbeaten in two starts, Robert LaPenta's Dialed In captured the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Jan. 30. Making his first start in a route race, the son of Mineshaft broke well and raced fairly close to an easy pace (:24.96, :49.40, 1:13.89) for jockey Julien Leparoux while between horses at the rear of the five-horse field.
Reprized Halo showed the way with Equestrio, a son of Elusive Quality ridden by Jose Lezcano, prompting the leader in second. A patient Leparoux angled Dialed In to the outside leaving the final turn.
Equestrio took over the lead coming into the stretch and opened a three-length lead over a tiring Reprized Halo and the onrushing Dialed In. Equestrio seemed to have the race safely tucked away until veering out sharply after feeling a left-handed stick inside the sixteenth pole. Dialed In kept coming to make it close but ran out of time.
Zito, who did not come to the winner's circle after the race, noted the slow pace had a big effect on the outcome. He also said Leparoux was happy with the effort given by Dialed In.
"I liked the way they went the final eighth in :12 and change and the way he galloped out," Zito said.
"The horse that beat him isn’t a bad horse," he added. "It was two turns, they were older horses, and there was no speed in the race. I would have liked to win, but I have to be happy.
"He made the mile and an eighth. When (Equestrio) bolted at the end, he made another dash for the wire. You know the Florida Derby (gr. I) is going to have more speed. If he has a good month, we’ll still look at that.”
The $1 million Florida Derby is April 3.
“We got a trip, a good teaching trip, but there was no pace unfortunately," Leparoux added.
The runner-up finished 4 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Valerius.
Dialed In has created quite a buzz for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) following a powerful maiden win in his debut at Churchill Downs Nov. 12 and his impressive last-to-first triumph in the Holy Bull.
LaPenta and Zito were hoping to run Dialed In in the Timely Writer Stakes March 12. The race was originally set for nine furlongs but changed to one mile after Uncle Mo's connections expressed interest in starting the Derby favorite's 3-year-old campaign there.
Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable owns Equestrio, who is headed for stakes company. The chestnut colt, out of the Storm Cat mare Costume Party, has won three of four starts for Zito since breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs Nov. 7.
The 3-1 second choice carried top weight of 123, spotting his younger stablemate seven pounds, and paid $8.40 for the win.