The Dixie, 1 1/8 miles over the Pimlico Race Course lawn, drew a 13-horse field in which Optimizer is the 7-2 morning line favorite. He comes off a runner-up finish 4 3/4 lengths behind reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the May 4 Woodford Reserve (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, and has proven dangerous on grass in his 4-year-old season.
The son of English Channel campaigned on the Triple Crown trail last year, and was sixth in the Preakness, then switched to turf after the Belmont and registered multiple wins. He was a solid winner of the grade III Colonel Bradley and Fair Grounds handicaps earlier in the season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Joel Rosario gets the mount as part of a 122-pound impost from the 2 hole.
Skyring also finished behind Wise Dan recently, running fourth in the April 12 Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland. By English Channel as well, the 4-year-old colt won the James Murphy Stakes last Preakness Day and has not seen the winner's circle since then, although he has been among the top five in all of six starts in stakes company since last November. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens will pilot from post 10; Skyring carries 118 pounds and is 12-1 on the morning line.
Highweight in the field is James Covello and James Dolan's Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Swift Warrior, who has not raced since that Feb. 16 score for trainer John Terranova II but tied together a nice set of victories after starting his season with the John B. Connally Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) at Sam Houston. The 5-year-old son of First Samurai carries 124 along with jockey Rosie Napravnik from post 9.
Other contenders of interest in the Dixie include Willcox Inn, second in the March 30 Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap (gr. IIT) at Fair Grounds, and allowance winners Imagining, Howe Great, and Utley. Multiple graded stakes winner Doubles Partner, who was second in the Tampa Bay Stakes and fourth in the Mervin Muniz, looks back to March 2012 for his most recent score, the Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT).