FLORIDA / ZITO GETS ALLOWANCE RACE FOR DIALED IN – Owner Robert LaPenta and two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito have found what they’ve been looking for: an allowance race at Florida’s Gulfstream Park that will serve as a prep race for Dialed In, their unbeaten contender for Kentucky Derby 137.
Dialed In moved to the short list of major contenders for this year’s renewal of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) with an impressive stretch-running victory in the Holy Bull (GIII) at the Florida track, but elected to pass on last week’s Fountain of Youth (GII) because it was too close to the earlier race. That put the duo in ticklish spot because the lightly-raced Dialed In would, in all likelihood, need a race sometime before a planned run in the Florida Derby (GI) on April 3.
But a 1 1/8-mile allowance race for 3-year-olds and up scheduled for Sunday, March 6 attracted just enough horses to make that day’s Gulfstream racing program and Dialed In get that much needed prep, along with his first test at a two-turn distance. Jockey Julien Leparouxwill return to the saddle aboard the son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, whose pair of career wins came in his six-furlong career debut at Churchill Downs in November and the Holy Bull, which was run at a one-turn mile distance.
Along with Dialed In, the allowance race attracted Equestrio, a 4-year-old also trained by Zito. Others in the race include Reprized Halo,Valerius and William’s Kitten.
The most accomplished of Dialed In’s rivals is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s William’s Kitten, who finished fourth in last year’s Holy Bull and looked like a contender for the 2010 Kentucky Derby before he was sidelined by an injury He finished second to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver in the 2009 running of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs.
CROSSBOW TO SIDELINES – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has a major contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby in his barn in Fountain of Youth winner Soldat, but another promising 3-year-old in his care will be away from the races for a while.
Darley Stable’s Crossbow, who was expected to be entered in this week’s Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct, was found to have suffered a small chip in his ankle and is sidelined indefinitely.
The colt was entered in last week’s Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream Park, but was scratched after he landed in the inside gate at the post position draw. The injury was discovered when Crossbow returned to the track for training.
Crossbow, who had been impressive in back-to-back wins, will be sidelined indefinitely.
EAST (New York / Maryland) / STAY THIRSTY – REPOLE’S ‘OTHER’ DERBY HOPE – MAKES 2011 DEBUT IN GOTHAM – He has spent most of his young career in the shadow of his unbeaten stablemate, early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo, but Repole Stable’s Stay Thirsty has a chance on Saturday to grab the spotlight for himself.
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt will run for the first time since he finished fifth to Uncle Mo in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Churchill Downs when he takes on eight rivals in Saturday’s $250,000 Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct. Although he is the “other horse” in the stable of owner Mike Repole, Stay Thirsty is the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Gotham. Jockey Ramon Domniguez will ride the son of Bernardini.
Stay Thirsty finished second to Boys at Tosconova in last year’s Hopeful (GI) at Saratoga.
Pletcher has frequently worked Stay Thirsty in company with Uncle Mo, and the pair worked five furlongs last Sunday at Florida’s Palm Meadows Training Center. The duo worked together last fall at Churchill Downs prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and Sunday’s work was the third in recent weeks in which Stay Thirsty breezed with Uncle Mo.
"He’s been on an identical schedule as Uncle Mo, and in the three breezes he’s had with him he’s held his own,” said Pletcher. “He’s handled each assignment we’ve given him.”
The 5-2 second choice in the Gotham is Toby's Corner, a two-length winner of the Whirlaway over a muddy Aqueduct surface last month for trainer Graham Motion. It was the third straight win for the son of Bellamy Road, the beaten favorite in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, and Motion is anxious to see what his colt does on Saturday.
“I think each of his races has been somewhat of a progression,” said Motion. “Every race is a step up, and I hope he shows he belongs with these calibre horses.”
Eddie Castro will ride Toby’s Corner, who is the 5-2 second choice in the Gotham.
Also back from the Whirlaway is third-place finisher Preachintothedevil.Nacho Saint and The Fed Eased take a step up in competition as they come out of races in which they scored their first career victories.
MIDWEST (Kentucky, Illinois) / INVADERS TARGET TWINSPIRED IN JOHN BATTAGLIA MEMORIAL – A dominant victory in the WEBN Stakes by the intriguingly named Twinspiredcatapulted the son of Harlan’s Holiday to the top of the 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls wintering in Kentucky. But invaders from other locales are prepared to challenge the local hero in Saturday’s $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park.
The Mike Maker-trained Twinspired will face eight opponents that include new faces Positive Response and Blue Laser, both of whom are shipping from out-of-state locations for the Battaglia.
The race will be run at 1 1/16-miles over the synthetic Polytrack surface at the Florence, Ky. track. It is Turfway’s final prep for its major Kentucky Derby prep race, the 40th running of the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GIII) on March 26.
Positive Response traveled to Turfway Park from Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields, where he won the Gold Rush and California Derby over the track’s synthetic surface. He finished third to Silver Medallionfor trainer William Morey in the El Camino Real Derby (GIII) three weeks ago.
Blue Laser is based in Canada, but shipped from the Palm Meadows training center in Florida for the Battaglia. Blue Laser won the Grey Stakes (GIII) for trainer Mark Casse over the Polytrack surface at Toronto’s Woodbine, but has not raced since an eventful run in the Delta Jackpot (GIII) at Delta Downs in December.
Another potential threat is posed by R Fast Cat, another Maker trainee who closed strongly to finish second in the WEBN.
Jockey Corey Lanerie will ride Twinspired, who drew the outside post in the field of nine.
The Battaglia Memorial will be run under the lights, with post time for the race set for 9:22 p.m. (EST).
SOUTH (Louisiana, Arkansas) / MUCHO MACHO MAN WILL RETURN FOR LOUISIANA DERBY – Mucho Macho Man’s strong victory in the Risen Star (GII) at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds restored the luster to his reputation following a disappointing effort in the Holy Bull behind the unbeaten Dialed In. Now trainer Kathy Ritvo says the son of Macho Uno will return to the Crescent City for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII) on March 26.
“Mucho Macho Man seemed to love the track at Fair Grounds, so there’s no reason not to come back,” Ritvo said. “The horse is doing great and we’re all looking forward to coming back to New Orleans.”