Longshot Dr. Brendler rallied in mid-stretch, then held off a resurging Perfect Soul to win the $200,000 Citgo Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) by a half-length at Pimlico on Saturday.
The 1 1/8-mile turf race run over soft going, was run in a slow 1:57.78, more than 10 seconds off the course record.
Dr. Brendler was content to trail the field as they passed the stands the first time. The 4-5 favorite, Del Mar Show set a paltry early pace of :27.30 and :53.21 while under a tight hold by jockey Jerry Bailey. Perfect Soul, the 8-5 second choice followed the leader during the early running.
Down the backstretch, Del Mar Show continued to show the way, as he and Perfect Soul had a couple of lengths on Strategic Partner in third. Del Mar Show was challenged by Perfect Soul as they went into the far turn and Perfect Soul got the upper hand as they came out of the bend. However, Dr. Brendler was moving best of all while wide and got the advantage after a mile in 1:44.56.
As Del Mar Show faded, Perfect Soul battled back but was never able to catch the winner. Dr. Brendler was ridden by Ramon Dominguez, who was winning his second race on the day.
"The pace was very slow and I was in a stalking position the whole way. I really thought I was in a position to put him away, but that horse on the outside came up and got us. For a moment, I thought my horse was going to come back. Maybe if the other horse wasn't so far outside of us, it would have helped."
"I had no clue that the pace was so slow, but I asked the horse to run at the half and when we started circling, I was pretty sure we could get there," said Dominguez. "He picked it up nicely in the stretch, and we were able to get up."
Edgar Prado, who rode Perfect Soul, said, "I really thought I was in a position to put him away, but that horse on the outside came up and got us. For a moment, I thought my horse was going to come back. Maybe if the other horse wasn't so far outside of us, it would have helped."
The H. Graham Motion-trained 5-year-old paid $39.40, $10.40, and $5 in the six-horse field. Perfect Soul returned $4 and $3.20. Sardaukar, who rallied for third, paid $5.20 to show. The 10-8 exacta returned $127.80.
"My horse ran a big race today," said Motion. "He loves the soft ground and cool weather. He had been training well, and I wanted to take a shot today. He was only beaten two lengths by Del Mar Show in last year's Dixie. He is a classy underachiever who runs well when running back quickly."
The Maryland-bred Dr. Brendler was bred and is owned by Francis O'Toole. The son of Distant View is out of Irish-bred mare Lady of Vision, by Vision. A winner of five of 26 starts, Dr. Brendler was coming off a non-winners of three allowance victory going 1 ½ miles at Keeneland on April 5.