Pimlico | Race 12 | 5:39 p.m. (ET) | TimeformUS PPs
The Grade 2 Dixie drew a large field of 12 runners, headed by last year’s Grade 1 Travers winner Catholic Boy. He’s clearly the class of this field, but he’s drawn the outside post position for his return. It’s not necessarily an easy spot for him as there are a number of accomplished rivals drawn to his inside, including graded stakes winners Inspector Lynley and Have At It.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, but that characterization is likely to change on race day as Flameaway (#6), a front-runner, is expected to scratch. That leaves Real Story (#7) as the controlling speed, and the Pace Projector will no longer be predicting a fast pace at that point. Stalkers such as Have At It (#5) and Catholic Boy (#12) should be in closest proximity to that leader, whereas Inspector Lynley (#11) may find himself somewhere in mid-pack. This does not project to be a race that strongly favors any particular running style, though it stands to reason that horses rallying from the back may be at a slight disadvantage.
Let’s make our way through the entire field:
#1, TWENTY FOUR SEVEN (20-1): Trainer Jamie Ness has been unstoppable at the current Pimlico meet, winning with 7 of 13 starters heading into Friday’s card. Twenty Four Seven made his first start for this barn in an optional claiming race last time, failing to hit the board in a tight finish. I thought Trevor McCarthy put him in a tight spot approaching the eighth pole and didn’t give the horse the best chance to run through the wire. This runner has some back class, but he’s disappointed in some weaker spots recently and is hard to endorse on the class rise. Pass.
#2, JUST HOWARD (10-1): He is one of four horses exiting the Henry Clark at Laurel, the local prep for this race. He only managed to finish fourth, but some may be tempted to argue he ran the best race due to trouble late. I’m not so sure about that assessment. Trevor McCarthy was having a hard time working this horse into the clear, but that was mostly due to the fact that Just Howard was not able to quicken with the leaders at the top of the stretch. He eventually hit his best stride in the last eighth, but he was running to a hole that didn’t exist at that point. This horse has some back class, but it’s been a long time since he’s put forth an effort that would make him competitive in a spot like this. A fringe player.
#3, ADMISSION OFFICE (12-1): He’s the new face in this group as he makes his graded stakes debut. Admission Office began his career for Chad Brown and hinted at great promise right from the start, closing to beat a strong field at Belmont last May while racing greenly. He never finished out of the exacta in three subsequent starts to conclude his 2018 campaign, but he also failed to ever step forward off that impressive debut run. He was transferred to the barn of Brian Lynch for his 4-year-old debut, and he put forth a career-best performance on return. Breaking from an outside post position, Joel Rosario was never able to save ground, racing 3-wide on the clubhouse turn and 4-wide on the far turn. Once into the stretch, Admission Office again displayed some of that greenness that we saw from him as a 3-year-old, unexpectedly ducking out at the eighth pole before straightening up to win. He’s moving up in class off that victory, but he certainly deserves a shot in a race like this. He was a deep closer as a young horse, but he showed improved early speed last time. If he’s able to secure position in mid-pack, he has a chance to make a late impact. I think some others have the advantage at this point, but I’ll still use him at a square price. A cut below the main players.
#4, PARET (20-1): It’s hard to get a gauge on his Australian form. He tried group level foes on a few occasions but disappointed each time. He’s mostly participated in handicap events, and he also primarily focused on sprints. It’s unclear if he stacks up against these from a class perspective, and the distance of this race may be a significant hurdle. Pass.
#5, HAVE AT IT (6-1): This son of Kitten’s Joy really came to hand as a 3-year-old for Christophe Clement. He defeated today’s rival Admission Office in an allowance race at Belmont last summer, and that performance propelled him to a series of stakes attempts. He ran well to be second with a difficult trip in the Better Talk Now at Saratoga, and then took advantage of much more favorable circumstances to win the Hill Prince in October. Clement then took him to California for a pair of prestigious races at the very end of the season. He ran very well to be second behind the hard-knocking River Boyne in the Twilight Derby before the wheels came off in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last time. He’s been given plenty of time to recover from that hard campaign, and he now returns as a fresh 4-year-old. He appears to be working well for this return, and his running style appears to suit the likely race flow. I expect Jose Ortiz to slot him right in behind Real Story and save ground before angling out for the drive. If he improves at all on his top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 118 with added maturity, he’s a serious threat and he’s going to be a much more enticing price than fellow returnee Catholic Boy. A major player.
#6, FLAMEAWAY (8-1): Expected to scratch.
#7, REAL STORY (10-1): The projected pacesetter is a run-off at times, opening up clear leads in the early stages of races like the American Derby and Henry Clark. He should be winging out in front once again, but he’ll face some stern challenges once the field turns into the stretch. He’s clearly improved as a 4-year-old, earning 120+ TimeformUS Speed Figures in both starts so far this season. He battled on gamely in the late stages of the Henry Clark after looking like he was in deep water at the top of the stretch. However, if he was unable to win that race with a favorable pace setup, it seems unlikely that he will be able to handle this tougher field. May hang on for a piece.
#8, PHLASH PHELPS (12-1): He was somewhat compromised by the pace of the Henry Clark. While they were not exactly crawling up front, few runners were passing each other in the lane. Phlash Phelps was running on fastest of all late, but he was still beaten by three of today’s rivals. Curiously, it’s been nearly 3 years since this gelding has competed at any track other than Laurel. It’s also been quite some time since he’s run fast enough to be considered a serious player in this race. Pass.
#9, SOMETHING AWESOME (15-1): This 8-year-old is switching back to turf for the first time since July 2017. That lone prior grass start came in an optional claiming event at Woodbine, and he finished a lackluster 6th. Jose Corrales had a great run with this horse during his 7-year-old season, but he’s tailed off since then. Furthermore, he appeared to wake up with the switch to dirt, so it’s hard to believe that he will be as effective switching to another surface. Pass.
#10, O DIONYSUS (15-1): You can make the argument that he ran the best race of all in the Henry Clark. He was parked 4-wide around the far turn and never stopped trying in the stretch, holding his ground in the bumping incident that involved Just Howard. His connections have refocused his career on turf races in the past year, and he’s rewarded them with 3 wins in 5 starts on this surface. However, he gets a serious class test here and he would need to improve on his best speed figures to be considered a top contender. An exotics player.
#11, INSPECTOR LYNLEY (7-2): It’s hard to find too many faults with this honest 6-year-old. He’s never quite ascended to the Grade 1 level, but Shug McGaughey has kept him in top form for three consecutive seasons, winning a trio of Grade 3 events during that time. He got his season off to a great start in the Tampa Bay Stakes, but then he encountered an unfavorable pace scenario when meeting division leader Bricks and Mortar in the Mervin Muniz. I’m not going to hold that race against him, and he got right back on track in the Dangers Hour at Aqueduct last time. This 1 1/16 miles distance is right up his alley. I’m also encouraged that he’s displayed improved early speed in his recent starts, since he was sometimes pace-compromised by his lack of early aggression in the past. Rider Jose Lezcano has been winning everything in sight in recent weeks at Belmont and comes into this with serious momentum. Shug McGaughey certainly knows how to get a horse ready for the Dixie, having campaigned 4 winners of this race over the past few decades. The selection.
#12, CATHOLIC BOY (3-1): He pulled off a remarkable feat last summer, winning Grade 1 events on both turf and dirt. He unseated the division leader Analyze It in the Belmont Derby Invitational and then carried that momentum to a dominant Travers score. He was unable to recapture that form in his final start of the year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but he’s now returning as a fresh 4-year-old. Jonathan Thomas has been aiming for this race, and Catholic Boy appears to be training forwardly coming off the layoff. My primary concern is the distance. He’s been most effective going 9 furlongs and beyond, on both dirt and turf, so he may find the 1 1/16 miles of this race to be a bit too short for him. Javier Castellano may also have to use him more aggressively than he would prefer to get over into position from this outside slot. I’m not sure that he’s necessarily more likely to win this race than Inspector Lynley, and he may go off as the favorite. I think it’s reasonable to try and beat him at a very short price. A potentially vulnerable favorite.
I have the utmost respect for Catholic Boy (#12), but I don’t think he necessarily has to win this race as he returns from a lengthy layoff. I believe Inspector Lynley (#11) is a more likely winner, and he may not even be the favorite. He’s my top selection, but I also want to use Have At It (#5) at a slightly better price, since he figures to work out a good trip coming off the layoff.
Exacta Key Box: 11 with 3,5,12
Trifecta: 11 with 3,5,12 with 2,3,5,7,8,12
Trifecta: 5,12 with 11 with 3,5,7,12