03/01/2012 3:26PM

Gulfstream: Dialed In, Pants On Fire to meet in their returns

Barbara D. Livingston
Dialed In will have stiff competition on Saturday, his first start since the 2011 Preakness.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Dialed In and Pants On Fire won two of the most prestigious prep races on last year’s Kentucky Derby trail and ultimately wound up finishing just a neck apart when they met for the first and only time in the Kentucky Derby. Their paths will cross again here at Gulfstream on Saturday when both horses return from lengthy vacations to launch their 2012 campaigns in a high-priced optional claimer over the main track.

Dialed In was the star of the 2011 Gulfstream Park meeting, winning the Grade 3 Holy Bull as a prelude to his victory over Shackleford in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Pants On Fire was stabled in south Florida last winter but did all his Derby prepping at the Fair Grounds, where he capped off a series of three races with a victory over Nehro and Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

Dialed In has not started since rallying from far back to finish fourth in the Preakness, a race in which he was running for a $5 million bonus as a result of his earlier wins in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby. Dialed In was sidelined for the remainder of his 3-year-old campaign after having a chip removed from his knee. He returned to training with Nick Zito in late October at Churchill Downs and has worked regularly for his return this winter at Palm Meadows.

“It’s been a long way , but he’s training well and ready to go,” said Zito who trains Dialed in for owner Bob LaPenta. “I wanted to start him back in as easy a spot as I could find and never expected to catch the Louisiana Derby winner and everybody else in this field. I thought starting him out at a mile was the right thing to do since he had one of his best moments last winter in the Holy Bull.”

Zito said he has nothing mapped out for Dialed In beyond Saturday’s return.

“He’s doing well and we’d like to win, but the main thing is just to get a good race into him and set him up for the summer races in New York,” said Zito. “He’s a wonderful horse, and if everything goes well Saturday I’ll sit down with Bob and we’ll map out a plan moving forward.”

Pants On Fire has not started since finishing fifth in the Haskell. Trainer Kelly Breen said Pants On Fire, a son of Jump Start, injured a foot prepping for the Smarty Jones at Parx and it caused him to miss the remainder of the year.

“He just wasn’t doing well, he was a little crabby after we pulled the shoe off at Parx, so I just figured he deserved a little time off after a tough campaign,” said Breen, who trains Pants On Fire for owners Lori and George Hall. “I think my horse is training great. He isn’t coming in here Saturday needing a race. He’s ready to go, and I’ll be upset if he doesn’t fire a big one right off the bat.”

Breen said if Pants On Fire runs well in his return he could come back in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on April 1.

Dialed In and Pants On Fire will face six rivals including the 6-year-old mare Dash Dot Dash, who has not started since posting a third straight stakes win at Calder in July of 2010.

Handicap stars get in works

Two of the major contenders in next Saturday’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, Boys at Tosconova and Jackson Bend, turned in their final major preps on Friday.

Boys at Tosconova worked locally, going six furlongs from the five-eighths pole to the mile pole in 1:15.19 seconds while traveling easily throughout under exercise rider Michelle Nevin. Boys at Tosconova, a winner of three straight allowance races, posted fractions of 25.19 seconds, 36.71, and 1:01.19 to the wire before completing his drill around the clubhouse turn.

Jackson Bend turned in a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.82 at Palm Meadows for Zito.

Boys at Tosconova and Jackson Bend will be among a quartet of big names pointing for the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap along with Mucho Macho Man and defending champion Tackleberry.

◗ The claim box has been busier than ever this week. Fifteen horses were claimed out of Wednesday’s 10-race program, including five from the afternoon’s fourth race alone, four of whom went for a price of $50,000. Trainer Peter Walder lost both halves of his entry, Olympist and Valerius, in the opener, while Todd Pletcher was one three trainers who reached in to take maiden $12,500 sellers out of the nightcap.