03/02/2012 1:02PM

Dialed In, Pants On Fire Make Noteworthy 2012 Debuts


With the Big Cap and Mr. Commons going at Santa Anita, and Hansen, Caleb’s Posse, and It’s Tricky all running in stakes at Aqueduct, there is a lot to command one’s attention Saturday. But we all should be careful not to let a mere one mile allowance race, the seventh race at Gulfstream, to fall through the cracks. Dialed In and Pants On Fire make their 4-year-old debuts in this race, and off what they accomplished last year, they could be welcome additions to a handicap division that could use all the help it can get.

Look at the current state of the handicap division. Game On Dude and Animal Kingdom are headed to the Dubai World Cup, and it is anyone’s guess how effective they will be after they return home. And in the case of Animal Kingdom, it’s hard to shake the feeling that if he is good to go after Dubai, he will focus as much if not more on turf racing than on dirt racing. Wise Dan and To Honor and Serve have, as of Friday, all of three published workouts this year between them. But that’s better than Acclamation, the defending divisional champion, and Stay Thirsty, who have zero published works this year between them.

And these are the divisional leaders.

Take a peek at the Big Cap, the most prestigious race so far this year for older males. It drew a huge field, and it is a tremendous betting race. But not one horse going into it could be considered star material. That’s not the Big Cap’s fault. It’s merely a reflection of the nature of the division.

That’s why the returns of horses like Dialed In and Pants On Fire are so potentially important. Pants On Fire last year won the Louisiana Derby over Nehro, who later finished second to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby, and the Pegasus.

Dialed In, in particular, could be an important addition to the handicap ranks. Last year, he won the Holy Bull off of only a first out win at 2, and he won the Florida Derby over Shackleford, who later upset the Preakness. Dialed In went off the 5-1 favorite against 18 other betting interests in the Kentucky Derby, but could only finish eighth after being hopelessly far back early. Dialed In was also ridiculously far back early in the Preakness, but made up a lot of ground to finish fourth, only to come out of the race with a knee chip.

Yes, there is a lot of meaningful stakes racing on Saturday, but don’t forget about this allowance race at Gulfstream. Depending on how it shakes out, it could have a big impact down the road.