A deep field of 13, including multiple graded stakes winners Proudinsky , Kiss the Kid, and Wesley, makes for an intriguing match-up in the $150,000 Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT), the race that precedes the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico May 16.
In addition, the Dixie will be the seasonal debut of Strike a Deal, romping winner of the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) on a yielding course last November, and last October's Sky Classic (Can-II) victor Lauro, who ran second in the Red Smith. Monba, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) in 2008, will be making his turf debut for Todd Pletcher in the 1 1/8-mile event.
The German-bred Proudinsky makes a quick turnaround for trainer Bobby Frankel after running sixth, 4 3/4 lengths behind Einstein, in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs May 2. The 6-year-old horse came into the Turf Classic off wins in the San Gabriel (gr. IIT) and Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial (gr. IIT) handicaps in his two prior starts, but failed to match strides with Einstein late after stalking the pace near the inside for most of the nine-furlong journey.
The millionaire Proudinsky, who leads the field in earnings, breaks from the rail under top weight of 124 pounds and will have Garrett Gomez aboard. Gomez rode him to victory in Fair Grounds' 2008 Muniz Handicap. Owned by Joanna Louise Glen-Teven, the bay is coupled in the wagering with fellow German-bred Musketier, a 7-year-old who was out of action for more than 14 months until last February and is coming off a runner-up finish in Keeneland's Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) April 24.
Kiss the Kid, owned and trained by Amy Tarrant, won Gulfstream Park's Appleton (gr. IIIT) in his last start March 28, the third stakes win in four starts for the 6-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid . Eibar Coa takes over on the eight-time winner of $609,767, replacing Elvis Trujillo.
Wesley looked sharp winning the Miami Mile Handicap (gr. IIIT) by 1 1/2 lengths for trainer Mark Hennig at Calder Race Course April 25 and would appear to be ready to go a little longer this time. Willmott Stables' 4-year-old son of El Prado has won twice at nine furlongs, including Saratoga's Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) last August.
Jayeff B Stables' Strike a Deal enjoyed a big year in 2008 though his seven-length triumph in Aqueduct's Red Smith was his only win. The 5-year-old Smart Strike horse ran second in the Monmouth Park's rich United Nations Stakes (gr. IT), Woodbine's Nijinksy Stakes (Can-II), and Belmont Park's Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT). Trained by Alan Goldberg, the bay has a lifetime mark of 4-7-1 in 16 starts and earnings of $932,341.
German-bred Lauro kicks off his 2009 campaign for trainer Andreas Wohler. The lightly-raced 6-year-old ran just once from November 2006 until last October, but finished up the year on a strong note. He would appreciate a little give in the ground.
Monba was a distant third to Dixie rival Parading in the Ben Ali (gr. III) on Keeneland's Polytrack April 19. Monba, sidelined for more than nine months after finishing last in the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), has not raced on turf before. But Parading has, winning four times in 11 tries on the grass for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Augustin Stable's Just as Well comes off a third-place finish in Keeneland's Maker's Mark (gr. IT) April 10 for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. He ran a close second to Kip Deville in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) two months prior to that.
$150,000 Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 11, 5:13 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. a-Proudinsky (GER), G. K. Gomez, 124
2. Monba, E. S. Prado, 118
3. Parading, K. J. Desormeaux, 122
4. Kiss the Kid, E. Coa, 120
5. Baltimore Bob, R. Bejarano, 118
6. Nightscape, G. Garcia, 118
7. Wesley, A. Garcia, 120
8. Strike a Deal, J. R. Velazquez, 118
9. Brickell, H. Vega, 118
10. Just as Well, J. R. Leparoux, 118
11. Senior, N. DeSouza, 118
12. A-Musketier (GER), M. E. Smith, 118
13. Lauro (GER), A. Starke, 118
a - coupled entry