At 1-1/8th mile on the grass, the $300,000 Grade II Dixie Stakes has attracted a stellar 13-horse field and a host of big-time trainers.
Returning are the 2012 runner-up and local campaigner Humble and Hungry (20-1 on the morning line), representing Sagamore Farm, and the third place finisher Forte Dei Marmi (15-1), who is trained by Roger Attfield. Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s race with Hudson Steele, will send out Doubles Partner (6-1).
D. Wayne Lukas said morning line favorite Optimizer (7-2) is “doing very well” after running a game second following a poor start in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. “He’s one of these horses who come back well, and I’ve got the hottest rider in the country (Joel Rosario),” Lukas said.
Shug McGaughey’s entry, Imagining (5-1 third choice), has been galloping well over the Pimlico surface since accompanying Orb from Churchill Downs and will be making his second start this year. His first outing of 2013 was a 3 1/2 length score against allowance company at Keeneland.
“He ran in Canada last summer, and then we had to give him some time off,” said McGaughey. “He has been doing real good.”
Graham Motion’s Howe Great (12-1) is coming off a victory to that of Imagining – at 1 1/8 mile on Keeneland’s turf against allowance runners. That came a he was in an awkward spot before finishing off the board in a grade III race at Gulfstream Park.
The race has others who are sporting top credentials. Swift Warrior (second morning line choice at 4-1), trained by John Terranova II, has won two straight graded tests, Doubles Partner consistently finishes in the money and Michael Stidham's Willcox Inn (6-1) has three in-the-money finishes in five graded tests since last fall.
There are three other races on the card which are graded and which have $150,000 purses.
The Maryland Sprint Handicap features 10 top sprinters, including Sage Valley (5-2), who returns from a layoff as the probable favorite. Action Andy (6-1) has on-the-board finishes in nine of his last 10 races, while Manito (10-1) steps into the stakes ranks off a four-race winning streak.
Out-of-towners Summer Applause and Brushed by a Star figure to be the favorites in the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes, with streaking locals Moon Philly and Daydreamin Gracie looking for the upset.
A pair of Chad Brown trained runners, Pianist and Samitar, headline the Gallorette.
Other added money races on Saturday’s 13-race card are the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes; the $100,000 James Murphy Stakes; the $75,000 Rollicking Stakes and the $40,000 Deputed Testamony. First post is 10:45 a.m.
Edited Maryland Jockey Club release