Paddy O'Prado returns with style in the Dixie Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Paddy O'Prado returns with style in the Dixie Stakes.
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Rick Samuels

Paddy O'Prado Returns With Authority in Dixie

Paddy O'Prado returned to the races in style with a win in the grade II Dixie.

Donegal Racing’s Paddy O'Prado put an exclamation mark on his 2011 debut with an impressive come-from-behind victory in the $200,000 Jägermeister Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) at Pimlico Race Course May 21 (VIDEO).

With Kent Desormeaux riding for trainer Dale Romans, 3-5 choice Paddy O’Prado, last early in the seven-horse field of 3-year-olds and up, circled foes on the far turn and pulled away to an easy 1 1/2-length score in the 1 1/8-mile turf test. Baryshnikov, who set a moderate pace throughout under some pressure, finished a game second by two lengths, while Bim Bam rallied for third.

Romans would also win the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in the following race on the card.

“I wasn’t comfortable until they hit the wire," Romans said. "He’s amazing. It makes no difference -- Grade 1 race on Poly, the Classic on dirt, multiple-stakes wins on turf -- he’s just a phenomenal horse. This is the start of a great year, I hope. The turf condition did concern me a bit. We just wanted him to run his race, relax early and follow Kent’s commands and that’s what he did.”

Fractions for the Dixie, run over a course rated good, were :24.76 for the opening quarter mile, :49.07 for the half mile, 1:14.21 for six furlongs, and 1:40.06 for one mile. Paddy O’Prado finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.56, about nine seconds off the course record.

“He started to reach up and find his class from the three-sixteenths pole to the eighth pole," Desormeaux said. "Once he gutted that out and got near the horse in front, I found him to be a lot more of a racehorse. He got me home from there. He had to have put on 250 pounds and grown a hand in both directions. He’s gotten to be a big boy.”

The winner paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10 as the heavy favorite in his first start since the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), in which he finished an even fifth. Paddy O’Prado, now 4, won three major turf stakes as a 3-year-old: the grade II Colonial Cup, grade II Virginia Derby, and grade I Secretariat.

Bred in Kentucky by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Paddy O’Prado, by El Prado out of the Prized mare Fun House, now has five wins, two seconds, and two thirds in nine starts on the grass. He prepped for the Dixie with two works on the turf at Churchill Downs, where the Romans stable is based.

A year ago, Paddy O’Prado made his Pimlico debut in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). He finished sixth, and Romans then moved him back to the grass. Overall, the gray/roan colt is 5-3-3 in 14 starts with earnings  of $1,721,297.

Baryshnikov, ridden by Julien Leparoux, led by three lengths in the stretch but saw his two-race win streak for trainer Mike Maker end while paying $4.40 and $3. The exacta was worth $15.60.

“We tried to take it wire to wire, Leparoux said. "He got an easy lead. He ran his race. We just got beat by the better horse.”

Bim Bam, Garrett Gomez aboard, returned $4 to show.

Then came Pocket Patch, Slews Answer, Lonely Whistle and Eighttofasttocatch. Grand Rapport scratched.