• Baird Wins Three on Saturday – Joins Leaders
TOP FOUR FROM DIXIE STAKES ALL MILLION NOMINATED
Calumet Farm’s Skyring impressed many with a wire-to-wire victory at Pimlico Race Course in its signature turf event, the Dixie Stakes one race prior to the Preakness. Under a heady ride by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee won his second stakes over the Baltimore oval, while leaving multiple graded stakes winners in his wake.
Howe Great, trained by Maryland-based Graham Motion, gave way with chagrin to finish fourth behind a very unlucky Optimizer. The latter, with the same trainer and owner connections as the winner, had zero running room the entirety of the race until the final sixteenth of a mile – at which time he burst through to nearly claim second.
The first four finishers in the Dixie are all nominated to Arlington’s signature event, the Grade I Arlington Million. Willcox Inn ran a creditable race last year in the Million and seems to be on track to run even better in 2013 if his form continues on its favorable path.
One thing the top three finishers have in common, which may bode well for their Million possibilities, is that they have all been trounced by the top-ranked Wise Dan in the last few months. Wise Dan, fortunately for those competitors, is not currently nominated to the Million and will most likely focus on races shorter than its 10 furlongs.
The Dixie Stakes has consistently produced quality subsequent Million performers, dating back as early as 1992 when Dixie victor and Million favorite Sky Classic lost a battle with France’s Dear Doctor. The next year, Dixie runner-up Star of Cozzene found the absence of his rival Lure to his liking at Arlington with an easy win.
In 1994, turf champion Paradise Creek proved a facile winner of both races for trainer Bill Mott, while the following year’s Dixie winner The Vid ran a respectable third behind the intense closing power of Ryehill Farm’s Awad. The last Dixie conqueror to hit the Million board was Hap in 2001, but that statistic could possibly change this year – especially with the substance of yesterday’s edition.
Earlier on Pimlico’s Preakness Day card, two talented 3-year-olds ran away from their rivals in the Listed $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes at one mile on turf. Ramsey Stable’s homebred Redwood Kitten wired the field under the finesse of popular rider Joel Rosario for trainer Wesley Ward. A chasing second, and well clear of the remainder of the field, Sumaya US Stable’s Shining Copper ran very well in his first start since March.
Both the winner and runner-up are nominated to the Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, and the timing of the Murphy is complementary to the series that culminates with the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day. In 2005, English Channel used a victory in the Murphy en route to an unlucky second in the Secretariat.
BAIRD WINS THREE ON SATURDAY – JOINS LEADERS
E.T. Baird, who is ninth in all-time Arlington wins, landed a hat trick on Saturday afternoon. Two of his wins were for longtime associate Mike Stidham, including an impressive ride on Masquerade in the third. Masquerade had recently shipped from Parx Racing for her initial start for Stidham, as well as jumping from dirt to turf and sprint to route.
Breaking from the far outside post, Susan Moore and M Thoroughbred Partners’ Silent Name filly set the pace and then fought back when headed in deep stretch to win by a gutsy head. Baird now lands in a three-way tie for second in the standings with Kent Desormeaux and Channing Hill. What is most impressive is that he has done so with considerably less mounts and is riding with a 31% strike rate.
First in the standings is apprentice Emmanuel Esquivel, whose 11 wins have him two ahead of the aforementioned tie. The talented 22-year-old, by picking up his 40th win earlier this week, is now a five-pound apprentice as opposed to seven.