01/23/2012 3:40PM

Gulfstream: Zito not rushing Dialed In

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dialed In is being aimed by trainer Nick Zito at major Saratoga stakes.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – The strength of the local handicap division will be on display here over the next several weeks, beginning with Saturday’s Florida Sunshine Millions Classic and continuing Feb. 11 with the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

One horse who figures to fit right into the upper echelon of the local division but who will be sitting out both those races is last year’s Florida Derby winner, Dialed In. Trainer Nick Zito is taking his time bringing Dialed In back from minor surgery that put a premature end to his 3-year-old campaign following the Preakness.

“I could have rushed this horse back to make and maybe even win the Donn,” Zito said shortly after sending Dialed In out to work an easy half-mile in :48.46 seconds Monday morning at Palm Meadows. “I’ve done that before. Twelve years ago, Stephen Got Even came back after not having run since the Jockey Club Gold Cup in October to win the Donn. But this horse is just returning off an injury, and it’s a very long year. Besides, the handicap division is loaded down here, and I don’t want to be starting him right off in Joe Frazier or Muhammed Ali land.”

Dialed In looked good during his routine work on Monday, posting fractions of 11.70 and 23.61 seconds while traveling easily outside a stablemate under exercise rider Maxine Correa. Dialed In pulled well clear coming to the wire before galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.49, working over a cuppy racetrack and finishing into a strong headwind.

“The track was tiring and it was windy, and he did it so easily,” said Zito. “Like I said, I’m not in any hurry with him. He’s five or six weeks away. I’ll probably try to get a race for him around Fountain of Youth weekend. I’ll plan his schedule working backwards from our first major goals, which will be the big races this summer at Saratoga. I’m not thinking about the Super Bowl just yet, but if he stays together I think he can have a wonderful year.”

Toby’s Corner goes by himself

Another horse who could end up a force in the handicap division before the end of the year is Toby’s Corner, who has not started since upsetting Uncle Mo in the 2011 Wood. Toby’s Corner had been the regular workmate of the recently elected 3-year-old champion Animal Kingdom until Monday when he breezed five-eighths by himself in 1:02.80, tiring some while fighting the headwind through the stretch to complete his final three furlongs in 38.21 seconds.

“Overall I was pleased with the work,” said trainer Graham Motion. “He got a little tired, as you might expect. It’s a double-edged sword trying to decide whether to work him alone or in company. When he worked with Animal Kingdom he was a little too keen because both horses were fresh, but he can also get a little lazy without a workmate.”

Motion is targeting either the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 18 or Tampa Bay Downs’ Super Stakes one week earlier for Toby’s Corner’s return. Both races are carded at seven furlongs.

“The race at Gulfstream might be a pretty tough spot, but he’s going right along now so we’ll just see how he’s doing and then make a decision,” said Motion, who added that he’s penciled in Animal Kingdom’s next work for Wednesday on the turf at Palm Meadows.

Albertrani firster scores

Trainer Tom Albertrani was accepting congratulations on Monday for his victory the previous afternoon with first-time starter Zo Impressive, who rallied to an easy victory against a well-touted field of 3-year-old maiden fillies under jockey Rajiv Maragh. Zo Impressive, a daughter of Hard Spun and Zoftig, is a half sister to Grade 1 winner Zaftig.

“Going in it looked like she might need a race,” said Albertrani. “I usually don’t get to the bottom of them for their first start. Rajiv said she was racing greenly and tossing her head from the kick back, so with a little experience I expect further improvement. I’m tempted to look at the Davona Dale but will probably come back with her in a one-other-than allowance race.”