Paddy O'Prado emerges from a six-month layoff to grab the favorite's role for the Grade II, $200,000 Dixie Stakes, one of eight stakes races on the Preakness Day undercard. Five are graded events.
Paddy O'Prado, listed at 4-5 odds overnight, has not raced since Nov. 6 when he was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Blame, but he has never been worse than third on the grass, the surface for the 110th running of the Dixie. The gray/roan colt has earned more than $1.1 million on the turf and more than $1.6 million overall.
"Coming off a layoff, anything can happen," said trainer Dale Romans, who will saddle Shackleford for the Preakness. "But he's doing super and this looks like a good spot for his first race back this year."
Paddy O'Prado finished third in last year's Kentucky Derby behind Super Saver and Ice Box, then sixth in the Preakness. He was then shifted back to the turf, running off three straight graded victories before a strong second at Belmont Park. Kent Desormeaux was aboard in all those starts. He has four wins, two seconds and two thirds in eight lifetime starts on grass.
"We gave him time off after the Breeders' Cup for the first time because it took him a while to get over some muscle soreness and get him in the groove again," Romans noted. "Now, he's feeling good and really on his game. It seems like he's ready to go."
Grand Rapport (9-2) and Slews Answer (6-1) are expected to provide the most opposition.
There is some local flavor in the Dixie with Pocket Patch (12-1), the victor in the Maryland Million Turf last fall and recent winner of the Henry Clark Stakes here on April 30.
SHARED ACCOUNT STANDS OUT IN GALLORETTE
Another odds-on favorite is Shared Account in the Grade 3, $100,000 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf.
But trainer Graham Motion, who surprised the Kentucky Derby field with Animal Kingdom, is deeply concerned about one element. Shared Account, the 4-5 morning line favorite, has been assigned to carry 125 pounds, a minimum of 10 pounds more than her seven rivals.
"It's not the weight (Shared Account carried 124 to victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf last November), but I'm surprised at the spread of the weight," said Motion. "Giving 10 or more pounds to everybody is quite a bit."
Shared Account is the only graded winner in the field, but Motion said "there are some up and coming fillies in there and although she (Shared Account) is doing great, it could be a problem."
In that group of potential contenders is Irish-bred No Explaining (4-1), and Desert Sage (5-1) and Dyna Waltz (5-1).
EIGHTOFASTTOCATCH LIVE IN SCHAEFER
Preakness day is often dominated by the out-of-town shippers but Laurel Park-based Eightofasttocatch is a 6-1 shot against eight others in the Grade 3, $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes.
The Tim Keefe trainee comes into the race on a two race win streak, including a driving score in the Harrison Johnson Memorial Stakes in March at Laurel.
Keefe said he has made some adjustments with the Not For Love gelding, removing blinkers, working the horse in company and trying to get him to relax. "We threw a goat in his stall, too, and he seems to like it,” Keefe said. “She (named Gigi) is tracking with him Saturday up to Pimlico.”
Eighttofasttocatch has had success on both dirt and grass and is cross entered in the Dixie, where he is 10-1 on Frank Carulli’s morning line.
Al Stall, who conditioned 2010 champion older horse Blame to victory in this race last year, will saddle 5-2 morning line favorite Apart. Other notables are former Preakness starters Icabad Crane (4-1), Pleasant Price (6-1), 2009 Schaefer winner No Advantage (20-1) and 3-year-old Saratoga Red (20-1).