Robert V LaPenta's DIALED IN (Mineshaft) unleashed a monster move from the tail of the field to capture his stakes debut in Sunday's $400,000 Holy Bull S. (G3), prevailing in a dramatic come-from-behind fashion not typically seen at speed-friendly Gulfstream Park. Highly regarded by Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, the Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful is now a perfect two-for-two.
Dialed In first attracted attention after his eventful debut maiden score at Churchill Downs on November 12, where he broke slowly, lagged far back while appearing to climb, had his head cocked while lugging in down the stretch and trying to run up behind an opponent, but ultimately leveled off and won going away by a half-length. By overcoming so many mistakes in a 6 1/2-furlong dash, the dark bay colt hinted that he was a major talent in the making.
Zito's original intention, however, wasn't to go to the Holy Bull, which is held around a one-turn mile. Instead, he wanted to stretch him out to two turns in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream on January 21. After rain rendered the track sloppy that day, he decided to scratch, and went to the Holy Bull only as a back-up plan. That move paid dividends, as the colt would collect the winner's share of $240,000 in all-important graded earnings.
Dialed In was dispatched as the 5-2 second choice when facing his first real class test in the Holy Bull. Most of his rivals were seasoned stakes competitors, including 2-1 favorite Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno), who chased To Honor and Serve (Bernardini) in the Remsen S. (G2) and Nashua S. (G2) last fall; Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) winner Gourmet Dinner (Trippi), fourth in the CashCall Futurity (G1) in his latest; two-time stakes winner Sweet Ducky (Jump Start), fourth in the Delta Downs Jackpot; and Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) victor Major Gain (More Than Ready), who was most recently a close third in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill. Dialed In was the only entrant who was taking the steep climb from a maiden win into stakes company, and he handled it with aplomb.
Once again ridden by Julien Leparoux, Dialed In was away slowly and content to let the rest of the field go, dropping more than 10 lengths behind the early leaders. Up front, Mucho Macho Man might have been too keyed up after being bumped hard at the break, and battled through fractions of :23 4/5 and :46 1/5 with Black N Beauty (Devil His Due) and Ribo Bobo (Louis Quatorze). Longshot Ribo Bobo bowed out on the far turn, leaving Mucho Macho Man and Black N Beauty to slug it out through six furlongs in 1:10 1/5.
The two continued to race as a team into the stretch, but both ultimately gave way. Meanwhile, the early stalkers Sweet Ducky and Gourmet Dinner advanced into contention, and Sweet Ducky put his head in front in midstretch.
Farther back, however, Dialed In had commenced his eye-catching rally. Rocketing into fifth along the inside on the far turn, he angled to the outside for clear run down the lane. His inexperience briefly told as he clung to his left lead, but once Leparoux got him to switch to his right lead, he took off. Inhaling Sweet Ducky and Gourmet Dinner inside the final sixteenth, Dialed In blew past to win by a widening 1 1/2 lengths, and finished the mile in 1:35 on the fast track.
"Actually, I did expect to be that far back," Leparoux said. "Nick told me just to leave him alone and drop to the rail and that's what I did. He said just to be patient. When I asked him, he really ran on well. This is obviously a very nice horse."
"I had a good feeling and confidence in Julien to let him be in the right place and then get into the mix," Zito said.
"I just wanted him to get out (of the gate) clear and settle," added Zito, whose colt ducked out briefly after the start from his outside post position. "I'm not sure what will be next. The idea is just to get him there (the Kentucky Derby)."
Dialed In rewarded his backers with $7.40, $4.80 and $3.60. Sweet Ducky, a 14-1 shot, retained second by a head from 7-2 chance Gourmet Dinner. Another three lengths astern came Mucho Macho Man, trailed by Black N Beauty, Leave of Absence (Harlan's Holiday), Printing Press (Tapit), Major Gain and Ribo Bobo.
"He was a little sharp today," jockey Eibar Coa said of Mucho Macho Man's performance. "He's been working sharp and came out a little sharp. Breaking from the outside, I didn't really have a place to cover him up so he went a little too fast too soon. I was never able to get him to relax. At a one-turn mile, that happens sometimes. I think he would have relaxed if it was two turns. He'll be OK."
Bred by W.S. Farish, Madeleine Pickens and Skara Glen Stables in Kentucky, Dialed In was purchased by LaPenta's Whitehorse Stables for $475,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, and he has now earned a total of $268,800. He is out of the Grade 2-placed Miss Doolittle (Storm Cat), whose other offspring include stakes winner Broadway Gold (Seeking the Gold), the stakes-placed Mambo Master (Kingmambo) and an unnamed juvenile colt by Ghostzapper.
Miss Doolittle is herself a half-sister to current Irish stakes hero Samuel Morse (Danehill Dancer), runner-up in last year's Railway S. (Ire-G2) and Anglesey S. (Ire-G3) and third in the Futurity S. (Ire-G2). Miss Doolittle is herself a daughter of Eliza (Mt. Livermore), the champion two-year-old filly of 1992 who went on to finish second in the 1993 Kentucky Oaks (G1). This is also the family of 1991 Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner, Dinard (Strawberry Road [Aus]), and more recently, Run It (Cherokee Run), hero of the 2010 Berkeley S. (G3), and Spacy Tracy (Awesome Again), last seen landing her biggest victory in the November 26 Top Flight H. (G2).