Benefiting from a quick start, Pianist set a fast pace en route to a gate-to-wire victory in the $150,000 Gallorette Handicap Presented by Kaiser Permanente (gr. IIIT) on the May 18 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) undercard at Pimlico Race Course (VIDEO) .
With Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith aboard for trainer Chad Brown, the 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready –Red Piano, by Red Ransom took charge from the outset in the 1 1/16-mile turf test contested as a steady light rain fell in Baltimore. With Silver Screamer and jockey Julien Leparoux giving chase, Pianist rolled on the firm turf, setting fractions of :23.39 and :46.65 into the backstretch.
As Silver Screamer continued to hold second and grade III winner Hard Not to Like tracked in third under John Velazquez after a poor start, Pianist completed the mile in 1:34.61 while extending her advantage through the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
Pianist, owned by Hidden Brook Farm and Don Zucker, hit the wire in a final time of 1:40.60, just a shade off the course record of 1:40.32 set by Precious Kitten on May 19, 2007.
Pianist paid $15.40, $7.80, and $5.60, with Hard Not to Like holding second to return $9.60 and $6.60. Appealing Cat and Edgar Prado closed late for third at $5.80.
The top two combined for a $112.80 exacta, and the trifecta was worth $802.80. Grade I winner Samitar, the 11-10 favorite also trained by Brown, finished fourth, followed by Charged Cotton, Embarr, Silver Screamer, and Old Tune.
The win improved the 4-year-old filly's record to 5-1-1 in 10 starts, with earnings of $300,950.
Bred in Kentucky by the Grapestock breeding division of Tom Simon's Vinery, Pianist was purchased by Hidden Brook for $100,000 from the Vinery consignment to the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Pianist broke her maiden in her second start and earned black type with her first stakes triumph in the listed Given Stakes on a yielding turf course at Belmont Park last September. The Gallorette marked the second stakes and first graded win for Pianist.
Brown said Smith followed the pre-race game plan by sending Pianist to the front.
"I thought the fractions were a little strong but I just left it to the riders. I said 'You just judge the pace'," Brown said. "I didn't give them any figures. She looked great, although it looked like Samitar wasn't holding the track on the backstretch."
"She jumped away from the gate very well," Smith said. "Chad told me before the race that we could win this if we did something a little unusual. I guess a 46-second half was a little unusual."
Trainer Michael Matz said he was proud of the effort by Hard Not to Like, considering her stumble at the start.