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Friday, May 6, 2011
Ready to ride


LOUISVILLE, KY -- When I got to the paddock to ride Dialed In first time out at Churchill Downs, Nick Zito was at the races -- and he rarely comes to Churchill, he's always in Florida or New York. So that was a good sign, and he told me, "This horse is a good horse." He was right. We won.

Even though the margin was only half a length, it was actually a pretty good race because Dialed In did everything wrong that day. He lugged in, broke bad, and was kind of rank, too. He did pretty much everything you could do to lose a race, and he still got up to win going six-and-a-half furlongs, which is pretty short for him. He learned a lot from that race and the next time, in the Holy Bull, he was a different horse. Nick just told me to leave him alone the first part and save ground, so that's what I did and he came running. When he won that race by a length and a half, it's what put him on the Derby trail.

When he ran second in the allowance race at Gulfstream in his next start, a lot of people wondered if Nick would be upset. For me, the race was just a prep for the Florida Derby. There was a five-horse field, not much pace in there, and it was an opportunity I could use to really teach him something, just an allowance race. That's why I went there and waited and waited and went between horses and tried to teach him something. I told Nick before and after the race, 'If you get to the Derby and run against 19 other horses and your horse hasn't been between horses or anything, you're in trouble because he doesn't know.' And of course, Nick's been doing this for a while, he knows that's true. So I just wanted to see how Dialed In would act in that position and I learned a lot from him because he didn't really care about it. Like I said, he got a lot out of it to carry forward into the next race.

But I was pretty relaxed about losing the allowance, and maybe that transferred to Nick, too. I told him, you know, "I lost the race, I got us beat, but for the Florida Derby he's going to be much better, and for the Kentucky Derby he's going to be much better." And he was good with that, he appreciated my honesty.

That's one of the things that makes me comfortable with Nick. He's always given me a good chance and great opportunities on his horses, pretty much since the first year I started riding. Bob LaPenta, too, has ridden me on a lot of his horses and I'm glad I could help them find success with this horse this winter and heading into the spring.

I know the time was slow in the Florida Derby, but like Nick was saying, the track had been favoring speed that whole day so coming off 15 lengths behind, I think he did something pretty good. The Holy Bull and Florida Derby were both nice races to have behind you going into the race on Saturday -- especially that style; fall way back, come running just in time. I expect a lot of pace in the Derby so that's why I like my chances. That's the way he likes to run, from off a solid pace, and like I said before, I wouldn't trade places with anyone right now.