Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
With just about a week to go until Kentucky Derby 137, it’s time to start recapping what went down on the 2011 Derby Trail. Over the next week, Anthony Stabile will look at all 24 horses that are still being pointed towards the Run for the Roses before an extensive breakdown of the final field next Friday, exclusively at VegasInsider.com. To buy Anthony Stabile products, click HERE!!!
In this installment of Derby Countdown, we’ll take a look at the five contenders for the “most exciting two minutes in sports” from Florida and we’ll start with the colt that may very be your Derby favorite come post time.
DIALED IN has done little wrong in his brief four-race career. With three wins from four starts, he is easily one of the most consistent runners targeting the Derby this year. Dialed In was victorious in his lone start as a juvenile in a sprint at Churchill Downs that was both popular and impressive as he made a last to first run past 11 others to win by a ½ length as the 5-2 favorite.
After being on the bench for ten weeks, Dialed In returned to action in the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream and once again rolled past the entire field before drawing off to score by 1 ½ lengths, going the mile in a sharp 1:35.
After the Holy Bull, Dialed In missed a work, forcing trainer Nick Zito, a two time Derby winner, to scrap the plan to run in the G2 Fountain of Youth. Luckily for Zito, the Gulfstream racing office was able to fulfill his request for a two turn allowance race which was held a week later. Against just four others, Dialed In’s two turn debut didn’t go exactly as planned, as he was forced to race much closer to a dawdling pace than he’s accustomed before closing strongly in the stretch to fall a ½ length to his older stablemate, Equestrio.
Things went back to normal in a hurry though once the G1 Florida Derby came around as regular rider Julien Leparoux took Dialed In back to last and took advantage of a solid early pace to circle the field yet again en route to a head victory in Gulfstream’s signature event. He’s trained well since at Palm Meadows down in Florida, including a half mile in :48 2/5 on 4/28.
As impressive as Dialed In was in the Florida Derby, the performance by SHACKLEFORD might have been even better. Like Dialed In, Shackleford broke his maiden in a Churchill maiden last year but did so in the second start of his career after failing to fire in his debut over the Keeneland Polytrack.
Shackleford returned from a nine week freshening this season for trainer Dale Romans to win a two turn allowance race at Gulfstream before throwing in a clunker when fifth in the Fountain of Youth when his rider Jesus Castanon took him off the pace. But in the Florida Derby, Shackleford was right back on the lead, to the surprise of some, and was hounded most of the way by To Honor and Serve before putting him away in the stretch. A taxing six furlongs in 1:10 3/5 is what likely did Shackleford in as he was unable to hold off Dialed In but tried with all his might the last eighth of a mile.
It was unclear as to whether Shackleford would get into the race but after a few defections, he’s all set. Romans trained him as if he were running in the Derby since the Florida Derby and Shackleford has trained up a storm since, going five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 over a sloppy Churchill strip on 4/23 before covering the same distance over a fast track in a blazing :58 4/5.
Coming off a pair of sharp gate-to-wire scores at Gulfstream, many though SOLDAT would be right back on the lead in the Florida Derby but that wasn’t the case. Breaking from the rail, jockey Alan Garcia instead tried to rate Soldat but it obviously didn’t work as he trudged home fifth, beaten over 10 lengths.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Soldat finished second in the first two starts of his career on dirt before breaking his maiden in the G3 With Anticpation on the grass at Saratoga. A pair of second place finishes in the G3 Pilgrim and G2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf followed before Soldat was given some time off.
When he returned to the races, Soldat destroyed an allowance field at Gulfstream in the slop before taking the Fountain of Youth by 2 lengths. Like Dialed In, Soldat completes all his major training for the Derby at Palm Meadows with a pair of five furlong drills, going :59 on 4/21 and 1:01 2/5 on 4/29.
Though his for starts prior to the Derby have come outside the Sunshine State, DECISIVE MOMENT is as “Florida” as you can get as he was bred in Florida and is stabled at Calder for trainer Juan D Arias.
Decisive Moment broke his maiden over a wet track at Calder in his debut, paying over $75 in the process before three consecutive third place finishes in an allowance contest and two divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes.
Arias took the blinkers off and switched jockeys to his now regular rider Kerwin Clark in what would be the fifth and final start of his juvenile season, the G3 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs in Louisiana and Decisive Moment raced well to be second, beaten 2 ¼ lengths at over 48-1. After a seven week layoff, he returned to Delta to start his sophomore campaign and won a $250K ungraded stakes.
Two starts back, Decisive Moment contested the early pace in the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds before fading to fifth then was prominent throughout in the G3 Spiral over the Turfway Polytrack last out, a race in which he actually had the lead turning for home before settling for second. He’s worked twice at Churchill since, including a five furlong drill in 1:01 2/5 on 4/29.
Another true Floridian is the Kathleen O’Connell trained WATCH ME GO. Like Decisive Moment, Watch Me Go broke his maiden at first asking at Calder before finishing off the board in a couple of Florida Stallion Stakes races and winning an entry level allowance contest. He finished his 2010 season with a couple of off the board finishes in a pair of minor stakes at Calder and Tampa Bay Downs.
Watch Me Go started to turn things around after his first start at Tampa, the first start of this season. He won an allowance race by daylight before getting beat just five lengths when third in the G3 Sam F Davis in his graded stakes and two turn debut.
Two starts back in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby, Watch Me Go but in a solid, workmanlike, professional performance to upset the field at better than 43-1 before failing to lift his legs in the G3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne where he finished a non-descript sixth as the 2-1 favorite. Watch Me Go worked five furlongs in 1:02 over a sloppy track at Churchill on 5/2 and will get the riding services of Rafael Bejarano in the Derby.
In the next and final installment of the Derby Countdown, we’ll take a look at the New York and California contingents. See you then.