Dixie Meister, who had never won a race outside of Texas, established himself as a contender for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) with a one-length victory over Super Frolic in the $250,000 Californian (gr. II) on Saturday at Hollywood Park.
After winning the major local prep race for the Gold Cup, the 4-year-old Holzmeister
gelding will have a chance to become the first Texas-bred to win the 1 ¼-mile classic when it is contested for the 67th time on July 8.
Dixie Meister, trained by Julio Canani and owned by Gary Tanaka, covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.53 under jockey David Flores. He collected the winner's check of $150,000.
Spellbinder, the 2-1 favorite, battled with speedy Yes He's A Pistol for the lead much of the way through fractions of :22 3/5, :45 4/5, and 1:10 3/5 before fading to eighth.
The victory was the first for Dixie Meister since he was purchased by Tanaka and turned over to Canani following a seventh-place finish in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) in February. He finished second in the Santana Mile in March and was third in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood in mid-May.
Dixie Meister, fifth down the backstretch, moved three-wide on the far-turn and gained the lead from Preachinatthebar in mid-stretch.
"There was plenty of speed in the race and they were sending, so I was just sitting on my horse," Flores said. "He was just running into the bridle all the way around, so I just tried to keep him in a good position and put him outside when it was time to go."
Dixie Meister, who broke his maiden at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, had not won a graded stakes race prior to Saturday. He won two restricted stakes at Sam Houston in 2005, including the $100,000 Star of Texas. He finished second in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) one start prior to the Strub.
"I think he's good enough for the Gold Cup," said Flores, who has ridden two winners in the race, including Marquetry for a record $56.80 win payoff in 1991. "He'll be tough in there."
The 6-year-old Super Frolic, starting for the first time since the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March, finished well Saturday after splitting horses in mid-stretch and finishing willingly. A veteran of 35 starts who was making his Hollywood Park debut, he should appreciate the extra furlong in the Gold Cup.
"I'm fine that he did as well as he did," trainer Vladimir Cerin said. "He's an old pro, he's very game. I'm very pleased with him. Our goal was to get him fresh for the next one (Gold Cup)."
Dixie Meister, who boosted his earnings to $496,210 with his fourth win in 20 starts, paid $14, $7.20, and $4 as the fifth choice in the field of eight. Super Frolic, ridden by Jon Court, paid $6.40 and $4.20. That's an Outrage, a 35-1 outsider who rallied for third under Tyler Baze, paid $10.20.
Preachinathebar weakened late to finish fourth, followed by Melanyhasthepapers, Spellbinder, Ice Cole, and Yes He's a Pistol.