11/15/2010 2:18PM

Dialed In impresses in troubled debut

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
"He's a horse that's got a future," trainer Nick Zito said after Dialed In won his maiden Friday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When the Kentucky Derby is run next May, it will have been 20 years since Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito won his first with Strike the Gold. It’s far too early to tell if Zito will be able to celebrate by returning with a legitimate contender for the 137th Derby, but it would not seem a huge upset if a colt named Dialed In is here to represent him and longtime client Robert LaPenta.

Dialed In, a 2-year-old by Mineshaft, made a highly impressive career debut Friday at Churchill Downs, winning despite all sorts of trouble and leading Zito to think aloud about a third Derby win, following Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994).

“He’s a horse that’s got a future,” said Zito, who soon will send Dialed In to the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida, where he has his best horses every winter.

Backed to 5-2 favoritism in a full field of 12, Dialed In broke flat-footed under Julien Leparoux from post 3 in the 6 1/2-furlong race. Faced immediately with having to pass the entire field, he went about it in a difficult way. He ran into a pocket of heavy traffic in the back of the pack nearing the half-mile pole, and when passing the quarter pole, after being swung widest of all, he still had eight horses to pass. Churning furiously, he finally got past the last one, Ninja Blade, with about 40 yards to go, but only after Leparoux skillfully kept his mount from clipping heels while lugging in greenly.

WATCH REPLAY: Dialed In's maiden victory Friday at Churchill Downs

Dialed In, a $475,000 yearling purchase, earned a 75 Beyer Speed Figure after finishing in 1:17.77.

Zito has enjoyed considerable success in recent seasons with sons of Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year, including Fly Down, Cool Coal Man, Coal Play, and Miner’s Reserve. He said most offspring of Mineshaft require time to mature and that he is excited about the long-term prospects for Dialed In.

“He is so big and he was not ready to run” earlier in the year, Zito said. “If he is good enough, he will get his chances.”

Leparoux heading to Hong Kong

Leparoux is among an international contingent of jockeys who have accepted invitations to ride in the Hong Kong Jockey Challenge on Dec. 8. Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award winner for top jockey, will then head to Florida in mid-December to ride sparingly at Calder in preparation for the Gulfstream Park meet that begins Jan. 5.

Leparoux will represent the United States when joining Christophe Lemaire (France), Christophe Soumillon (Belgium), Johnny Murtaugh (Ireland), Ryan Moore (Great Britain), Anton Marcus (South Africa), Nash Rawiller (Australia), Hiroyuki Uchida (Japan), Joao Moreira (Singapore), and Douglas Whyte (Hong Kong) in the challenge.

◗ Early Return won the featured ninth race Sunday, a $54,663 allowance sprint, but only after an unlucky swing of the whip by Perry Ouzts, the jockey on the first-place finisher, Tend, gave the Churchill stewards no choice but to make a disqualification.

Tend was in very tight quarters passing the eighth pole, with Early Return on his outside, when Ouzts tried to swat his mount right-handed. The whip caught Early Return squarely on the face in clear violation of the rules, and although Tend, a 9-1 shot, eventually edged away to prove best, his number had to come down, making Early Return the winner at a $9.40 mutuel.

◗ One of those patented tears by Steve Asmussen has allowed his powerhouse stable to take command in what had been a tight trainers’ race at Churchill. Asmussen, who was on hand all weekend, sent out Simplify and Santana Strings to win Friday, Doc Posse and Secret Ride to win Saturday, and Mister Minister to win Sunday. With 10 of 21 programs still to go, Asmussen held a 9-7 lead over Todd Pletcher atop the fall meet standings.

◗ Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the all-time winningest owners at Churchill, registered their 300th win at the track when Glory Chaser captured the last race Sunday. The Ramseys were on hand with family members and were honored with signage and a brief winner’s circle ceremony in recognition of the milestone.