Inside the Kentucky Derby, America's greatest racing party

Kentucky Confidential

Profile: Dialed In

Dialed In, left, beats Shackleford by a nose in the Florida Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Dialed In does something I love to see: He runs big every time he goes to post.

Regardless of the slow speed figure, his 6 1/2-furlong debut last November at Churchill Downs hinted at immense talent. He broke slowly and was stopped hard on the backstretch as the field headed into the turn. After sitting in traffic for a while, he launched a wide move heading for home and blew by horses even as his rider, Julien Leparoux, had to redirect him three times in the lane.

Stretched out to a mile in his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Dialed In fell way back behind a quick pace. He charged up along the inside on the turn, shifted out for the stretch and won powerfully. He looked much more professional here.

That brings us to Dialed In’s third start and most interesting performance — his loss in an allowance race March 6 at Gulfstream to his older stablemate Equestrio, who opened up a three-length lead at the sixteenth pole and hung on by a half length while drifting out badly at the wire. Dialed In charged inside of the winner and galloped out past the finish line much the best.

Dialed In lost the race, but there were positive signs in what I would describe as a good learning experience. It was his first try going around two turns, his first start in a field of less than seven runners, his first time racing up close to the pacesetter and, finally, first time rally late to pass another horse on the inside.

He did his best running at the end, getting the final three-eighths of a mile in about :36.80 seconds.

Dialed In’s final prep race for the Kentucky Derby came in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 3 at Gulfstream Park. Again, he fell far behind a quick pace and came running with a wide, sustained rally. He wound up beating 60-1 long shot pacesetter Shackleford by a head.

The Florida Derby is a bit of a conundrum. Going into the race, it looked like a strong field, but several major contenders turned in subpar performances. The temperature was warm that day, in the mid-’80s. The final time and the finishing fractions were slow, and Dialed In did not gallop out in front of Shackleford.

So where does that leave Dialed In? As a likely Kentucky Derby post-time favorite who is more impressive visually than by speed figure.

A few more points: Gulfstream Park is generally a speed-favoring racetrack and can make front-runners appear better than they are. Closers who win there usually are genuine.

Some have suggested Dialed In’s late punch could be diminished at longer distances. Every horse is a question mark at 1 1/4 miles until they prove otherwise, but I see nothing in his race videos to suggest distance will be a problem.

Dialed In’s final times and speed figures are not the fastest in this field, but he has a discernible will to win. He has the ability to shift gears, and he consistently puts in a long, sustained run — the kind of run it takes to win the Derby.

More: , ,

1 Comment

I like Dialed In. In watching his prior races, he strikes me as a horse with real “class,” which is that most important of traits that speed figures do not always convey.

Posted by Jeffrey on April 26, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

Author PhotoAn award winning newspaper journalist from Chicago’s south side, Pete Denk moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 2005. He wrote for Thoroughbred Times for five years, as a staff reporter and later as sales editor. Denk headed up the Times’ auction coverage for three years. Still based in horse country, he now works as a freelance journalist and consultant. More by  ›