04/04/2011 9:26AM

Dialed In and the Florida Derby

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Sunday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream, narrowly won by Dialed In, was a good news, bad news affair that raised as many questions as it answered. First, the good news:

Dialed In proved that he can be effective around two turns when he gets a realistic early pace to set up his late run. So Dialed In has something to look forward to as he heads off to Louisville, because you know he’ll get a good pace to rally into in the Kentucky Derby. And Dialed In managed to get up Sunday from well off the pace over a track on which it seemed the closer you were to the lead, the better off you were. While Churchill Downs has had issues with a dead rail on recent big race days – the rail was no place to be on both Breeders’ Cup Days there last fall, and the rail was bad at least for the first half of the 2010 Derby card – closers like Dialed In usually never have to fight an overt speed bias at Churchill.

There is, however, some less-than-pleasant news for Dialed in coming out of the Florida Derby. The final furlong of the Florida Derby was run in a slow 13.75 seconds, meaning Dialed In had virtually all day to get his head up on the wire. The Florida Derby was assigned a preliminary winning Beyer Figure of only 93, which is profoundly mediocre. This means that Dialed In will go into the Kentucky Derby without having yet earned a triple digit Beyer. That would have been a real negative in the not-so-old days, but three of the last six winners of the Kentucky Derby did not earn a triple digit Beyer beforehand. The problem for Dialed In is those three Derby winners were Giacomo, Mine That Bird, and Super Saver. Giacomo and Mine That Bird were implausible 50-1 shots, and Super Saver’s Derby win last year is, in retrospect, viewed as a wet track fluke.

But the real cause for pause in Dialed In’s Florida Derby is that none of his primary opponents performed the way they were expected to. Flashpoint, the wickedly fast sprinter who looked like a mortal lock to set the pace, didn’t break on the button, then broke outward, and didn’t make the lead. Under the circumstances, he actually ran okay finishing fourth, even if he was beaten eight lengths.

To Honor and Serve, who was expected to return to his outstanding 2-year-old form in his second start of the year, fell into a good trip pressing the pace. But just as he did in the Fountain of Youth in February, he came up completely empty in the stretch to finish a soundly beaten third. Instead of merely failing to progress from 2 to 3, it now looks like To Honor and Serve might have taken a giant step backward.

Soldat, who enjoyed sweet, front-running trips when he won his two starts this year, including the Fountain of Youth, had to come from off the pace Sunday. Considering the way he ran from off the pace last year, Soldat should have lost nothing in the way of effectiveness with the style switch in the Florida Derby. But he never seriously threatened, checking in fifth.

And Stay Thirsty, while he beat little when he won the Gotham in his first start of the year, had a right to take a big step forward second start back with blinkers on. He also never threatened, finishing a distant seventh.

With all of these horses firing blanks, and a couple of others (Arch Traveler and Bowman’s Causeway) declining to get involved, that left Dialed In to deal only with Shackleford. Shackleford was the longest shot on the board at 68-1 because he was beaten 23 ½ lengths last time out in the Fountain of Youth. Shackleford inherited pace setting duties Sunday, and he fell about one jump shy of holding Dialed In off. But that an unheralded colt like Shackleford forced Dialed In to work as hard as he could, well, that says something, too.

Lolawants More than 1 year ago
Dialed In shows pluck. Unle Mo shows talent. Shackleford showed guts. I could go on with this but we all realize that we are looking at a field of horses as they are a work in progress. Another few weeks and we should see some more changes. I am simply enjoying the races for the sake of racing. The vareties of the sport are obvious. With spring and the growth spurts going in all directions of development it will be interestng to see who prevails and what stories surface. I love all of these horses and I hope they maintain their good health. That said, I lean towards Dialed In as I am simply drawn to his running style, even though I can't even see him on the televsion screen untl the last couple of furlongs - but that is part of the excitement of it all. Sometimes you just don't know. Handcapping and speculating mirrors our need for resolution and with that I might resolve my own issue of being in the back of car traffic (much like being behind a prius at a redlight). When the cars in front of you manage to get to 30mph in one minute, it's time to step it up and pass. That is what Dialed in does for me. Helps me understand my moving with the slow flow of traffic then deciding to just pass. Dialed In can at least pass...I generally am not able to do that lawfully. So my being behind slow cars is not really resolved but living the idea of passing by watching Dialed In is good enough. Now, let's bring on the Fillies and we got a real story ; ) Enjoy the races!
lefty42 More than 1 year ago
Handicapping 3yo in spring is treacherous as they can develop overnight. Even though shackleford hadn't shown much to date, it could be he is just coming into his own.DI must be respected for his efforts to date and certainly has every right to improve from here.As usual the workouts and preperations during derby week will help in picking the most likely contenders from the pretenders.
Paul More than 1 year ago
I thought Dialed In's performance was impressive. He is my pick for the derby, and I bet him in pool 2, and received 11-1. So not bad. Even though I think he has a great chance,he is a closer, and closers rarely win the derby, but if he is the super horse I think he is, then he can overcome it. I had a question about Uncle Mo. I have been looking at his past performances and saw that he won the Champagne at Belmont at 1 mile in 1:54. In his Timely Writer win, he won at 1 mile in 1:56. 2 seconds slower. Is this a cause for concern, is that common. Both tracks were fast, he had the competition put away down the stretch, I know Todd wants him peaking at the derby, but 2 seconds seems unusual. Also, in looking at the Breeders Cup Juvenile, which to date is the best competition that Uncle Mo has faced, it looks in hindsight like a very mediocre field at best. With stay thirsty finishing 7/8 in the florida derby, jp's gusto mediorce and jaycito still not showing much. Thanks for any input.
Ron More than 1 year ago
Mike, First off I agree with all of your analysis on Dialed In. One point I'd like to make is the fact that really no derby contender has really run fast this year outside of The Factor's Rebel and he will get pace pressure at taxing distances from here on out. Mo has yet to show a "BIG BEYER" this year and maybe he will cruise around the track again against the legends of Toby and Bjorn (by the way, Stay Thirsty lost by 20 lengths yesterday, Just saying). So before we just say DI is to slow to win the Derby, he got his tough, gutty, game, win like Barbaro (God rest his soul) and will be ready to fire the first Saturday in May! How many people remember who Barbaro was life and death to beat in his Florida Derby with a perfect trip? No buddy will care May 7. This is a serious racehorse and is improving at the right time. I'm glad figures our given to these animals because the "eye" does not lie.
ed b More than 1 year ago
well it has been a spring of one hit wonders and horses moving backward. Not too many horses will be able to catch The Factor unless he changes his running style too. He should stretch out the pack of horses behind him and force alot of early moves. Should make for alot of tiring horses coming into the stretch and you need a closer with the ability to go around. There will be more horses vieing for last place than first place and I think winning exacta will be $40-70 range and tri will be well under $200. BUT they have to make to the post parade or not do a I Want Revenge imitation.
joel de jesus More than 1 year ago
The bottom line here is that in all the prep races we've seen up to now these horses all seem ordinary when you compare them to Uncle mo. The factor look good in his prep but I believe he will not finish when uncle mo looks him eye to eye. If there's a horse that stood out to me that woud be Premier Pegasus he looked impressive... I believe there might be a rivalry brewing between premier pegasus and uncle mo... Also I love what uncle mo's connections are doing with the colt it tells me that they believe they have a real chance to win all 3 of the triple crown races so they are using 2 soft preps to get the horse to peak at the derby and carry his form through the 3 races....
Don from PA/ More than 1 year ago
Thanks Mike, nice write up as usual....the main and just about only question remaininig in my head right now is Uncle Mo.....his race this weekend, if wins and stays healthy I hope and believe he is a true candidate for big win in KD and begin the long and hard triple crown title, one race at a time, he does deserve favour, this big boy, and until he loses, he is my aspiration. Don
todd saunders More than 1 year ago
hey mike. just read your re-cap on the florida derby, and while i think you make some really good points, the one thing i do not agree with is the final 1/8th of a mile, and its affect on the race. with an eight to go, Dialed In was at least 4 or 5 lengths behind Shackelford, and so his final 1/8th was faster than noted. in addition, dialed in had a lot of total ground to make up, into decent quarters, and still won despite the bias being against him. the beyer figures continue to be a bit of a conundrum, as it will not and does not truly reflect how well he raced, all things considered. additionally, while the others did not bring their best, that is not Dialed In, who has definitely shown he will bring his game, no matter the pace, and he clearly suited for 2 turns, and has a win at CD, which i think is huge. i realize that the track was not slow yesterday, but i believe the ground that DI closed more than offset's the slow-ish time. i am not saying he wins the derby, but i feel good about saying he will not stink it up either. the real question is whether the people behind to honor and serve, soldat and stay thirsty will honestly assess their horses, and realize that the derby is not in the cards. doubtful, but that is how i see it
mr velvet More than 1 year ago
Some interesting points made so far regarding the article... I don't think this field was nearly as good as advertised ... Lets review those GREAT derby prospects ( of which all but one should be eliminated) Soldat.... wins big in slop, and wins the FOY on possibly the most speed favoring weekend of the entire meet ( i posted the stats of that weekends' races after that race on this blog) THAS... very weak effort first off the bench, and yesterday proved he isn't the same as 2yo Flashpoint.... not realistic derby contender off of 2 sprints period Stay Thirsty.... second tier as 2yo, beat nothing in gotham in a workmanlike effort, very dull yesterday vs classier Maybe shackleford turns out to be a good one but I wasnt impressed how dialed in INCHED past him after those fractions. Its possible that DI runs well in the Derby bc he has right style and is very consistent ( and there arent many who can say that) but.... I kind of get the feeling he is best as a one turn phenom.... He really wowed me in both of his one turn races with an exceptional turn of foot
Chad More than 1 year ago
Guys, Guys, Guys, in the past few years we have seen extraordinary 3 year olds hold their own through the KD, and Preakness only to remind us that they are really just ordinary but highly talented. We have also seen in awe, 3 year olds, which by all we can reference have no business being entered in these type races only to prove us totally wrong. We can speculate all we want. We can handycap as thoroughly as we can by weeding out the fits from the misfits, but when it comes right down to it we are just gambling. We have no control of the weather. Nor do we have control of just how the race develops even when trainers hyave their say. The winner of the KD this year will be not the best, but the better horse at that particular moment in time. Think about that and digest it.