Circle Z Stables’ Xchanger opened up by eight lengths and cruised to victory in the $100,000 Federico Tesio Stakes for 3-year-olds, while odds-on favorite Etude had nothing to offer when asked and finished off the board.
The Tesio was one of five stakes races contested today on Pimlico’s opening weekend Spring Festival of Racing. A crowd of 8,997 was in attendance on a picture-perfect spring afternoon.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez sent Xchanger right into contention from the start of the 1 1/8-mile test. While under wraps, Dominguez allowed the son of Exchange Rate to take the lead down the backstretch, then waited patiently as longshot Pink Viper sped up on his inside until they were both closing in on the far turn.
When asked to go, the Mark Shuman trainee bounded away from Pink Viper, ridden by Nick Santagata, and took command. Xchanger flew around the turn and opened up easily on the field. He cruised down the stretch and crossed under the finish line 4 3/4 lengths in front of Pink Viper, finishing the race in 1:49.98. Zephyr Cat, Ryan Fogelsonger aboard, finished third. Saratoga Lulaby was fourth, Etude fifth and Belly Rub finished last.
“I’m glad neither Mark nor I overanalyzed the race,” said Dominguez, who rode the gray colt for the first time. “He told me to play it by ear and get a feel for the horse and play it from there. I really thought there was going to be a little more speed toward the inside. I let him put himself where he was comfortable. He was going pretty quick. He showed that he has class. Once I got to the first turn and I had (Pink Viper) to my inside my horse kind of got strong and I just let him go. I committed myself and let him go.”
Xchanger paid $6.80, $4.60 and $5.20 as the second choice. He was the top half of a $70.40 exacta with Pink Viper ($18, $13.60) and the lead part of a $509.20 trifecta with Zephyr Cat ($6.80).
“This is the first time I rode him,” added Dominguez. “I was surprised about his speed. He showed interest and wanted to run so I committed to let him go into the far turn. At the top of the lane we were going real fast and I looked back and realized we had opened up.”
Etude, the 3-5 favorite, came into the race with Preakness (gr. I) aspirations but the Pimlico-based son of Include never fired finishing more than 10 lengths behind the winner.
“It wasn’t his day,” said Luis Garcia, who rode the favorite. “I have no idea. I was waiting for a little bit more but that’s racing. He really didn’t want to go today There is not much to say. I am surprised.”
Xchanger has now won three of eight starts with earnings of $291,990. After winning his maiden debut and the Sapling Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth, Shuman raced him in five more stakes (four graded) and watched the gray colt suffer from more than his share of bad racing luck, running against the likes of Scat Daddy, Nobiz Like Shobiz and Curlin, three of the favorites for next month’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Shuman opted to go in the Tesio rather than today’s Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland because Dominguez committed to ride him for the first time. Shuman’s star sits 14th on the earnings list for the Run for The Roses with $202,890 in graded earnings and could be part of the field in Louisville two weeks from today.
“I knew what kind of horse I got and I made excuses for him the last four or five starts,” Shuman said. “I was banging my head up against the wall but legitimately said I have to stop making excuses for this horse. (Etude) is very impressive his last couple starts. I definitely had respect for him. That horse was the horse everyone talked about headed in but he didn’t beat anybody. We have been running against all the best horses in the country. We are still, in my mind, a notch below those horses.
"We’ll try to do what’s best for the horse. If for some reason we skip the Derby and Curlin or someone wins like a freak I don’t know if I’d run against him in the Preakness.”
Shuman saddled three stakes winners on the 11-race Pimlico card. The 36-year-old also scored with Talent Search in the Jim McKay Sprint and My Girlie in the Northview Stallion Station Stakes.
“This is unbelievable,” added Shuman. “Three perfect rides. Three perfect trips and three stakes wins. You really can’t do any better than that.”