Despite the presence of a stakes race on the card at Gulfstream Park
, most eyes were on Race 7, a one mile allowance optional claiming
affair featuring two Derby winners: Pants On Fire
and Dialed In
. The Kelly Breen
trained Pants On Fire gamely held off tough competitor Nehro
by a neck in last year’s running of the Louisiana Derby
, and the Nick Zito
trained Dialed In held off gutsy Shackleford
by a head in last year’s edition of the Florida Derby
. Both colts ran in the 2011 Kentucky Derby
, and Dialed In finished 8th, a neck in front of Pants On Fire who finished 9th. Until today, the two had not met up since last May, mostly because Pants has been away from the track since July and Dialed In has not raced since finishing 4th in the Preakness Stakes
. With both returning to the track for the first time since last year, they of course had everyone buzzing. That buzz translated into low odds as Dialed In was sent off as the even money favorite, and Pants On Fire was the second choice of odds of just less than 3-1.
Despite Dialed In being sent off as the favorite, the race ended up being all about Pants On Fire. Under Paco Lopez
, the Jump Start
colt stalked the pace from third, was eased out three wide entering the far turn, gained command of the race at the quarter pole, and drew away nicely to finish 4 ½ lengths clear of second place finisher Hunters Bay
. Dialed In did not have the best of trips, being caught in tight quarters at the break. The poor start resulted in him being near the back of the field. Jockey Javier Castellano
guided his mount into contention despite being caught five wide, but Dialed In tired and just missed hitting the board by a head.
Dialed In had a bit to contend with. Along with being caught in tight quarters at the start and getting hung up at the back of the field, he had soft fractions to try to close into, as well. Sky Venture grabbed the early lead, and the first quarter went in 24.67. By the half mile mark, Dash Dot Dash had the lead, and the second quarter went in 22.87. The pace was slowed back down, and the third quarter was ran in a modest 24.03. The main strip at Gulfstream favors speed, and with the reasonable pace set by the leaders, closers had no chance in this race. Being caught five wide in the far turn just made matters worse for Dialed In, and he was just no match for Pants On Fire today.
Today’s race gave both colts a solid foundation with which to move forward. Even though Dialed In finished off the board, he put in a good effort, especially in light of everything seemingly going completely against him. He has a bang-up pedigree and shows up in every race. His 8th place finish in the Kentucky Derby saw him squeezed at the start and running far back, also. After racing in dead last for the first half of the race, Dialed In made up enough ground in the second half to put him only about 8 lengths behind winner Animal Kingdom. With his closing style, I would suggest that Nick Zito ship his charge to Oaklawn or Churchill Downs for his next start because Gulfstream is not kind to closers. Without having to work against a track bias, Dialed In should be tough to beat.
There is no doubt that Pants On Fire looked extremely good in his win today. Aside from Dash Dot Dash and Dialed In, the colt did not face very stiff competition, but any win over a Derby winner is one to brag about. A win over Dash Dot Dash is something to brag about, too. The Put It Back mare had been on a hot streak recently, reeling off four straight wins coming into today’s race. Pants On Fire had no problem dispatching of the gutsy mare, though, who ended up finishing second last after contesting the pace. Breen chose a good place in which to bring back his charge, and Pants On Fire will certainly move forward from here. Today’s stellar effort puts at least one more colt squarly in the midst of the already deep handicap division. It is only March, but things are heating up quickly. I look forward to more great racing from Pants On Fire, Dialed In, and the rest of their division.