When Morning Line suffered a hard-luck second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in his 2010 finale, trainer Nick Zito could only shake his head and offer an uneasy chuckle.

“It was so tough in 2010. In 10 major races, I had horses finish second, including that one,” Zito said. “He ran his guts out. He ran a great race in the Pennsylvania Derby and he came back and duplicated that effort in the Breeders’ Cup. Like someone told me, he did all the work. We just hope he’ll start off good in 2011.”

Morning Line, who was beaten by only a head by Dakota Phone after pressing and setting a fast pace in the Dirt Mile, has given his Hall of Fame trainer every indication that he’s ready to launch a winning 2011 campaign in the Saturday’s Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream.

“He’s had a couple of terrific works – one was very, very outstanding,” said Zito, whose 4-year-old son of Tiznow turned in a bullet five-furlong workout (:59 3/5) at the Palm Meadows training center on Dec. 24. “We think he’s ready and it’s a good stepping stone for his comeback race for 2011.”

Morning Line will be ridden by John Velazquez, who was aboard for his victory in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby prior to his runner-up finish under Javier Castellano in the Dirt Mile. In the Hal’s Hope, Castellano will ride Rule, who will make his first start since finishing third in last year’s Florida Derby.

Zito is hopeful Morning Line will establish himself as a prominent older horse this season in both the Hal’s Hope and the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Feb. 5.

“Obviously, everybody would like to win the Donn. It’s one of the most prestigious races early in the year, so we’ll put that on the radar,” Zito said. “We have a few things lined up for Morning Line, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, so we’ll see what happens this weekend.”

Zito, who saddled two winners on Wednesday’s opening-day card, is cautiously optimistic about the future of Dialed In, a 3-year-old colt who broke his maiden in his debut at Churchill Downs in November. The son of Mineshaft broke slowly to trail the 12-horse field before launching an eye-catching and trouble-laden stretch drive.

“He’s really something. I don’t think I’ve had a horse come off a maiden race that there’s so much expectations for,” Zito said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, because my preachers tell me that great expectations bring great disappointments. So I’m just going to stay as cool as I can and we’ll go from there.”

Zito said Robert LaPenta’s $475,000 yearling purchase has settled well into his surroundings at Palm Meadows.

“He’s done super. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do,” he said. “We’ll run him in the next few weeks. That’ll set him up and then we’ll see what happens.”

Dancinginherdreams Training Smartly for 2011 Debut

Dancinginherdreams stamped herself as a filly with a big future while winning both of her 2010 starts impressively, and everything she has done in her training at Palm Meadows has only raised expectations for the daughter of Tapit.

“I think I’ve brought her back up where she needs to be – about 21, 22 days to go,” said trainer John Ward, who has tabbed the $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) on Jan. 30 for his filly’s 2011 debut. “She’s been training just as good as you’d want.”

Dancinginherdreams breezed five furlongs Wednesday in 1:00 4/5, the fastest of 12 at the distance, to the delight of both Ward and jockey Julien Leparoux.

“She just melted in his hands, waited, stayed behind a horse, and took the dirt,” Ward said. “She worked the first half in about 49-and-change. He just softened his hands and she quickened in :11 2/5 – that’s what makes you appreciate her so much.”

Dancinginherdreams has demonstrated a brilliant turn of foot in both of her starts: a five-length debut score at Keeneland on Oct. 10, when she closed from 11th with a dazzling sweeping move; and a 5-1/4-length triumph in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs only 21 days later, when she courageously split horses in the stretch with the aplomb of a more experienced horse.

“The sudden turn of foot, the acceleration, is what puts her into a special category. In her second race, she was down inside and doing what she needed to do. When Julien asked her, she quickened extremely well for a big horse,” Ward said. “To put it in football terms, she’s like a wide receiver who can make the cut-and-go and nobody can cover.”

The ultimate goal is the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 6, for which Ward will give his filly three preps.

“She’s a fun filly to train, because she’s got a lot of talent, but also because she’s such a mature animal when she is actually racing or at a higher speed,” said Ward, who saddled Monarchos for victories in the 2001 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. “She’s like a 5-year-old racehorse, as far as experience goes, with a teenage girl’s body and mind. So you’ve got to work with both scenarios. But she’s most comfortable when she’s actually in a race.”

Dutrow Works Pair for January Stakes

It was a busy Friday morning around the barn of trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., who sent out of pair of graded-stakes winners at Gulfstream Park in preparation for upcoming races.

Boys At Tosconova, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga this summer and one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby, worked beneath exercise rider Michelle Nevin

“The clockers told me they got him working five furlong in a minute,” Dutrow said. “That’s just what we wanted from him. I didn’t see Michelle asking him at all. I would say he’s right where we want him heading into his next race. We’re very happy with him.”

Boys At Tosconova is expected to kick off his 2011 campaign on January 30 in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3). In his last race, the 3-year-old son of Officer finished second behind undefeated Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs.

“Uncle Mo isn’t running in the Holy Bull,” said Dutrow, regarding his decision to run Boys at Tosconova at a one-turn mile. “Our horse is a Grade 1 winner at a one-turn seven furlongs so this shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

Also working for Dutrow Friday morning was 2010 Davona Dale (G2) winner Amen Hallelujah. The 4-year-old daughter of Montbrook hasn’t raced since finishing second in Belmont Park’s Acorn (G1) back in June.

“[Julien] Leparoux was up on her, and I thought she went very well also,” said Dutrow of the bullet five-furlong work in :59 4/5. “She’s coming off a bit of a layoff, but she’s good.”

Amen Hallelujah is scheduled to make her next start on Jan. 29 in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint.