Calumet Farm homebred Lexitonian, at 17-1 odds, split horses in mid-stretch and came with a determined run to edge past Gladiator King at the wire and upset the Chick Lang Stakes on Preakness Saturday at Pimlico.
The 44th running of the Chick Lang for 3-year-olds was promoted to grade III status this year.
Lexitonian, who paid $36 to win gave jockey Jose Ortiz his third victory of the day, all in stakes, following the James W. Murphy with English Bee and the Ole Smoky Moonshine Searching with Ickymasho. Calumet Farm hit a double, as it is also the breeder and owner of English Bee. The legendary owner-breeder owned by Brad Kelly also has Everfast in the Preakness.
Jack Sisterson, a former assistant to 2012 Preakness winner I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, earned his second career graded-stakes win as a trainer. The first came in the 2018 Tempted Stakes with Oxy Lady.
Todd Pletcher previously trained the winner, who was making his second start of the year, both for Sisterson. He finished fifth in an allowance race at Churchill Downs last time out, on Kentucky Derby day.
Malpais and Gladiator King slugged it out through a quarter-mile in 22.65 and a half in 44.82 before Gladiator King wrested a short lead on the turn. Lexitonian tracked the top pair in fourth, powered past rivals inside the eighth pole and continued gaining to get up by a head in 1:09.74.
Admiral Lynch rallied late for third, a head behind Gladiator King. Previously undefeated Preamble, the 8-5 favorite, was never in contention and finished last of nine, beaten 14 1/4 lengths.
Run as the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes from its inception in 1975 to 2009, the Chick Lang was renamed in honor of the racing industry legend widely known as ‘Mr. Preakness,’ who passed away in 2010 at age 83.
Jack Sisterson (Winning trainer): “I didn’t have to tell him really anything. I said just break and if he relaxes, just sit him behind the pace. He won it for us.”
“He came back fine after that race at Churchill. I could be wrong, but he seems like a horse where the more you work, the more he could go over the top. So I figured I might as well run him instead of work him. Someone asked me this morning, ‘What do you think of your horse today?’ and I said, ‘In my opinion he ran a much better race than it looked on paper.’ I know he ran an 80-something Beyer but Joel (Rosario), who rode him at Churchill, told me that he used him a little bit early and that if he were to ride him back, he’d take him back. It looked like he was going backwards on us at the quarter pole but then he started to finish up well – and it was a tough allowance as well.”
Jose Ortiz (Winning jockey): “He broke on top. I could have gone to the lead if I'd wanted to, but I figured there was going to be a lot of speed in the first half. So Jack told me if I could relax him and sit him back 'I would be the man.' And that's what I tried to do. He relaxed really well, because the pace was really fast. When I asked him to go, he was there for me the whole time. He didn't switch leads in the stretch, but he was digging in. He was trying, and that's all that matters."
Edited release with additional content by Dick Downey