Zito Colt “Dialed In” for 2011 Debut on Friday

Any time a well-bred colt debuts for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, the Thoroughbred world takes notice. When Dialed In made his first career start at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12, the son of Mineshaft demanded special attention.

The Kentucky-bred colt broke last in the six-furlong maiden special weight race to lag well off the pace before running into traffic while trying to get involved in the 12-horse race on the far turn. Dialed In finally kicked in on the turn but still had eight horses in front of him and 11 lengths to make up at the head of the stretch. The long-striding Zito trainee ran somewhat greenly in the stretch while lugging in, but jockey Julien Leparoux took control of the situation and quickly got his mount straightened out. Dialed In went on to win by a half-length with Leparoux wrapped up at the finish line.

Dialed In will make his highly anticipated 2011 debut at Gulfstream Park Friday in a particularly talented allowance race, carded as the ninth race.

“His first race was such an unusual race – that’s why people have given him such high marks,” said Zito Thursday morning. “I just hope everything goes smoothly and he gets a clear shot in the race.”

Robert LaPenta’s $475,000 yearling purchase will be joined in the starting gate by Soldat, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up who began his career with two second-place finishes on dirt; Todd Pletcher-trained entry of Lauburu, a half-brother to champion mare Ashado, and Financial Empire, a first-out winner by Empire Maker; and Angel Penna Jr.-trained Cool Blue Red Hot, who broke his maiden at Calder after being nosed out in a rapidly run debut at Belmont.

Zito views Friday’s 1-1/8-mile race as a prep for what he hopes will be a start in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 23.

“I’m just thinking about going forward in this race,” he said. “He’s really a good horse.”

Dialed In will be making his first start around two turns Friday.

“Being my Mineshaft, I wouldn’t think he’d have any problem with two turns,” he said.

Zito is confident that Leparoux will be a valuable asset in Dialed In’s development.

“I like Julien; I’ve been using him since he had the bug,” he said. “I really love Julien on a young horse. I think it’s really important with young horses starting their careers to have someone intelligent on them. Julien is a great rider.”

Leave of Absence Drills ‘Bullet’ for Possible Start in Holy Bull

Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s 3-year-old colt Leave of Absence worked a sharp half-mile in 48 flat Thursday morning at Palm Meadows for trainer Rick Violette as he considers his options for the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) to be run at one mile at Gulfstream Park on Sun., Jan. 30.

“He worked very well and ran a good race in the Spectacular Bid (rallied for second),” said Violette after the workout. “He just confirmed what we thought of him and it’s possible we’ll run him, but we also have Rescind the Trade eligible for the race. He works tomorrow morning. We’ll se how that goes and then make a decision.”

Leave of Absence is a son of Harlan’s Holiday purchased for $145,000 at the Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-old sales and made two starts last year, finishing third in his debut at Belmont Park in late September and breaking his maiden at Aqueduct on Nov. 7. He came back to rally from seventh after a half-mile in the six-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes here on Jan. 8 to finish second by 1 ¼ lengths.

Rescind the Trade is a Put It Back colt and also ran twice last year, winning his debut in late October at Parx Racing (Philadelphia Park) and an ‘a other than’ allowance race going one mile and 70 yards around two turns on the ‘inner’ track at Aqueduct on Dec. 19.

“He’s already been two turns, so I’m a little reluctant to turn him back to a one-turn race (Holy Bull),” said Violette. “The other option would be to wait and run him in the ($225,000) Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.” The Sam Davis will be run at 1 1/16 miles on Sat., Feb. 12.

Also working for a start in the Holy Bull Thursday morning was Our Sugar Bear Stable’s Gourmet Dinner, who earned the ‘bullet’ for five furlongs at Gulfstream Park as he was timed in 58 2/5 for trainer Steve Standridge.

A son of Trippi, Gourmet Dinner won the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs in late November and finished a troubled fourth last out in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (G1) at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18.

Other leading prospects for the Holy Bull include Zayat Stable’s Black N Beauty, Jay Em Ess Stable’s Boys At Tosconova and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and partners’ Mucho Macho Man.

The Holy Bull (G3) is the first race in the Preakness 5.5 bonus that could result in a $5.5 million bonus for the winner of the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1).

Also to be run on an outstanding Jan. 30 program at Gulfstream is the $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs and a leading contender for that race breezed Thursday morning at Palm Meadows.

The Forward Gal is the first race in the Black-Eyed Susan 2.2 bonus that could result in a $2.2 million bonus for the winner of the May 20 Black-Eyed Susan (G2).

Trainer John Ward had John Oxley’s Dancinginherdreams out for an easy half-mile in 51 3/5. The roan/gray daughter of Tapit won both of her starts last year at Churchill Downs, a five-length maiden score on Oct. 1 and the one-mile Pocahontas Stakes (G3) on Oct. 31 by 5 ¼ lengths.

Biancone To Work Two On Turf After Friday’s Sixth

Trainer Patrick Biancone will work two horses after Friday’s sixth race on the turf. Biancone will work the 5-year-old mare Belle Watling, a winner of 13 of 16 races in her native Chile, as she prepares to meet the boys in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) Feb. 5. Working with Belle Watling will be Pulsion, a 4-year-old who finished sixth in last year’s Florida Derby (G1).

Early Bird Noms Close Saturday for Florida Derby

Early Bird nominations for the April 3 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park close Saturday, Jan. 22. The 60th running of the Florida Derby, for 3-year-olds will be contested at 1 1/8th miles. The purse will be $1 million, an increase of $250,000 from last year.

To nominate, contact the racing office at 954.457.6260.

The Florida Derby has produced 39 runners who have gone on to win 54 Triple Crown events, including 21 Kentucky Derbys. The list of 39 also includes a dozen runners who went on to win two-thirds of the Triple Crown.

‘Paco’ Takes Early Lead in Gulfstream Standings

With three wins on the Monday holiday program and another on Wednesday jockey Paco Lopez has opened up an early lead of five on his closest rivals after a little more than two weeks of the Gulfstream Park season that opened on Jan. 5 with 14 victories as he defends his 2010 riding title here.

Lopez, a 26-year-old native of Vera Cruz, Mexico, was North America’s Eclipse champion apprentice in 2008 and leads the deepest riding colony anywhere this winter with four of the nation’s most accomplished veterans tied for second behind him at nine wins apiece – John R. Velazquez, Julien Leparoux, Javier Castellano and Elvis Trujillo.

The competition among trainers is highly competitive in the early weeks of the session as expected with Wesley Ward holding a lead of one over defending champion Todd Pletcher at 7-6 going into Thursday’s program, followed by David Fawkes third with five and five others tied for fourth with four victories each.