Disco Rico cut all the fractions and still had plenty in the tank to easily win the $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup (gr. III) Saturday at Pimlico, the race preceeding the Preakness (gr. I).
The 4-year-old Citidancer colt, on a track rather dull throughout the day, ran the six furlongs in a brisk 1:10 2/5 after cutting fractions of :22 1/5, :45, and :57 1/5.
Ridden by Harry Vega, Disco Rico ran his record to three-for-three at Pimlico and five-for-seven at six furlongs.
Owned by Alfred Dirico and trained by Valora Testerman, Disco Rico was winning his third straight stakes, having taken the Fire Plug at Pimlico and Endless Surprise at Laurel.
Disco Rico paid $8.40, $4, and $2.80 while Flame Thrower, making his first start of the year for Bob Baffert, closed to get second and return $4.20 and $2.80. Istintaj got third and returned $3.
Hap, making his first start of the year, swept to the lead down the stretch and went on to win the $200,000 Dixie (gr. III) at Pimlico Saturday.
Under Jerry Bailey, Hap sat in a good stalking position fourth as the field turned for home. North East Bound had led the field to that point, then gave it up as Bailey and Hap exploded to the lead. Make No Mistake made a nice run, also from off the pace, to get second, ahead of Cynics Beware.
Hap was bred by Allen Paulson and races for the Paulson Living Trust. The 5-year-old Theatrical horse is trained by Bill Mott.
Hap is now unbeaten in five lifetime starts at nine furlongs on the turf. He paid $7.20, $4.40 and $4. Make No Mistake returned $6 and $4.80 and Cynics Beware was worth $9.20. Overall, Hap has won seven of 12 starts.
Favored Quiet Resolve got fourth.
Serra Lake, under Pat Day, just got up in the final stride to edge heavily favored Jostle in the $200,000 Pimlico Distaff Handicap (gr. III) Saturday, a little over three hours before post time for the Preakness (gr. I).
A 4-year-old Seattle Slew filly, Serra Lake was winning her third straight race for trainer Shug McGaughey. She is owned by her breeder, Emory Hamilton.
Jostle, ridden by Mike Smith, stalked the early pace set by Prized Stamp and Sheldons Jet, then came off the rail and went by those two three wide in the turn for home. It looked like Jostle just had to put away Prized Stamp, which he finally did, but then Day snuck Serra Lake through on the rail and just got up to take the nine furlong event.
Serra Lake covered the distance in 1:50 1/5 after the front-runners had set fractions of :23 3/5, :47 2/5, 1:121 2/5, and 1:37 1/5. She paid $9.40, $3 and $2.60. Jostle returned $2.40 and $2.20, and Prized Stamp was worth $3.20.
Jostle looked in a good spot to get her first win of the year. Last year, she won her first stakes of the year on Preakness Day, taking the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II). She then finished second in the Mother Goose (gr. I) and won the CCA Oaks (gr. I), Alabama (gr. I), and Cotillion (gr. II). She ran ninth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) in her final 2000 start.
Jostle had made two starts this year prior to Saturday, running eighth in the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) and then a good third in the Bed O Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III).
In the William Donald Schaefer Handicap (gr. III), Perfect Cat ran by front-runner Rize to take the $100,000 race. Rize was the lone speed and Jorge Chavez took him from his outside post and made the lead in the nine furlong race. Chavez still had the lead when they hit the eighth pole, but Jerry Bailey and Perfect Cat had a head of steam and rolled by to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
Perfect Cat is owned by his breeder, Edward Evans and is trained by Mark Hennig. The 4-year-old colt is by Tabasco Cat. In his start prior to Saturday, Perfect Cat ran second to Broken Vow in the Ben Ali (gr. III) at Keeneland.
Perfect Cat paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60 while Rize returned $4.20 and $3.60. Judge's Case ran third and paid $4.40.
The connections of Burning Roma considered running in the 11th race Saturday at Pimlico -- the Preakness (gr. I). Instead, they opted to run in the first stakes race on the card, the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes.
Would they have won the Preakness? Well, all we can say is they did win the Sir Barton as the even-money favorite. It wasn't easy, however, with Mi Amigo Guelo, making his first start in this country after a campaign last year in Puerto Rico, making Burning Roma work hard to get the three-quarters of a length victory.
Burning Roma, beat just two lengths in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), won the Sam Davis and Tampa Bay Derby in his first two starts this year before running third in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico April 21.
Burning Roma was ridden by Rick Wilson. Owned by Harold Queen, the 3-year-old Rubiano colt is trained by Anthony Dutrow. He returned $4, $2.80 and $2.20. Mi Amigo Guelo paid $5 and $3 and It's So Simple was worth $2.40. The exacta came back $31.60.
Burning Roma came from off the pace and covered the 1 1/16-mile in 1:44 after fractions had been set of :24 1/5, :48 3/5, 1:12 4/5, and 1:37 4/5. Wilson kept Burning Roma a bit wide, as had been seen by riders in the two earlier races. The outside appears to be the part of the track most favored early in the card by the jockeys.
The first race of the day at Pimlico Saturday was actually the sprint for infield spots. The gates opened at 8:30 a.m. and thousands ran in to grab their spots in the infield for Preakness Day. The second leg of the Triple Crown is always known for its spirited infield crowd and despite cloudy skies with a cover of haze, it filled up quickly and the party began.
Preakness Day has an unusually early post time, the first race group of allowance horses sprung from the gate at 10:45 a.m. Easy Justice, from the outside post, went extremely wide and gained the lead, rider Greg Hutton appearing to lose a stirrup.
The winner also preferred to be wide, Tony Basich, under Omar Klinger, well out in the middle of the track while holding off a non-threatening late charge by favored Gorham Hall. Sevenbellsfrombama was third.
The crowd has seven more hours to wait until the day's big event, the 126th Preakness Stakes (gr. I). With several near Triple Crown winners in recent years, the public is anxious to see if Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos can win in Baltimore and have a chance at racing immortality three weeks later in the Belmont (gr. I).
A group of 10 is waiting to challenge Monarchos in a bid to become the latest classic winner. Leading the way are five others who ran in the Derby – third-place finisher Congaree and stablemate Point Given (fifth), as well as Dollar Bill (15th) and A P Valentine (7th).
The new shooters are Richly Blended, Griffinite, Mr. John, Marciano, Percy Hope, and Bay Eagle.
Post time for the Preakness is 6:04 p.m.
There are no scratches in the Preakness, but there are in some in the supporting stakes: Charlie's Cards is out of the Sir Barton Stakes; A.O.L. Hayes was scratched from the Pimlico Distaff (gr. III); Grundlefoot was declared from the Schaefer Handicap (gr. III); Flying Retsina Run scratched out of the Dixie (gr. III); and Delaware Township is out of the Maryland Breeders' Cup (gr. III).