Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has not determined the next objective for the undefeated DIALED IN (Mineshaft), who burst onto the Kentucky Derby (G1) radar screen with an impressive victory in the January 30 Holy Bull S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Holy Bull was itself a change of plan, and the colt's timetable has accordingly shifted as a result. Dialed In was supposed to contest a January 21 allowance, as a stepping stone to the February 26 Fountain of Youth (G2) and the April 3 Florida Derby (G1). But when a downpour rendered the track sloppy for the allowance, Zito reluctantly decided to scratch. Hence Dialed In's sophomore debut was postponed nine days to the Holy Bull.
"People know I don't usually scratch, especially in the mud," Zito said. "Over the past years, people who have followed my career know we have a great (win) percentage on off tracks.
"But it was too risky. There was tons of water that came down, and for some reason, I just knew -- I got some encouragement from up above -- to say, 'Let's get out of here, today."
Now that Dialed In's campaign got started a little later on January 30, he might end up skipping the Fountain of Youth.
"It'll be a little tricky," Zito observed. "When you bring a horse back 26 days, 27 days, there's going to be a lot of second-guessers.
"There's not much secret: you either run in an overnight stake race and wait for the Florida Derby, or just go into the Florida Derby, which is highly unusual because you have to have a two-turn race. So it's going to be quite interesting."
Dialed In has yet to try two turns, having broken his maiden in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint prior to his conquest of the Holy Bull around a one-turn mile.
Zito's primary concern is preparing Dialed In for a peak performance in the May 7 Kentucky Derby, which will be a major challenge if his colt doesn't have a prep race for the Florida Derby. The two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer would prefer not to bring Dialed In to the Derby with just three races under his belt.
"I learned a long time ago to never say 'never.' Things are always meant to change. With the cards you get, you either throw them down or you play. I like to play the game. I don't like to be on the sidelines."
Zito loves his hand after watching Dialed In close from a distant last in a nine-horse field to capture the Holy Bull going away by 1 1/2 lengths while dominating a Grade 3 race in only his second lifetime start.
"Don't ask me how he could win that race -- come back into the Holy Bull and show the performance he did was beyond belief," said Zito, whose colt broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last November despite enduring an eventful trip.
"I've got to thank the fans who bet on him. I couldn't believe he was almost the favorite (5-2 second choice). It was a great, great performance."
Zito, who saddled Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994) for victories in the Kentucky Derby, is as amazed as everyone else at Dialed In's fast-track development.
"War Pass was a special horse, but he went through his (conditions)," said Zito, referring to his 2007 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and Eclipse Award champion.
"This is very unusual, because you break your maiden in November and come back almost three months in a race like that and to run the way he ran is quite remarkable.
"We thank God for a special horse."