It's been a season of narrow losses for the hard-knocking Dillinger, who'll face five rivals in Saturday's $136,625 Sir Barton Stakes at 1 1/6 mile for colts and geldings.
Conditioner Steve Attard has nothing but praise for the chestnut 3-year-old, a consistent competitor with nine top-three finishes, but no wins, in 2002.
"He doesn't owe me anything," said Attard, of the son of Sea Wall, who has earned $118,835 so far this season. "Everyone tells me how frustrating it must be that he hasn't won this year, but I don't think so. This poor horse tries every time. How can I be frustrated with that?"
The Astor Racing Stable-owned and Ontario-bred gelding has five seconds and three third-place finishes this year. A lifetime winner of two races, Dillinger was second by a head in the Bold Ruckus Stakes at the Woodbine.
After a disappointing seventh-place finish in his most recent race, a 6 ½-furlong allowance event, Attard considered putting Dillinger on the shelf for the rest of the season. But after scoping the horse and administering a blood test, the results showed him to be in perfect shape.
"I don't have any excuses for him in his last race. He's had a long year and I didn't want to run him too much, but he came out of the race fine. I figured we'd give him another chance to win."
Attard hardly picked a soft spot to take a shot at a trip to the winner's circle. Dillinger faces stakes-tested Mister Coop and Queen's Plate runner Barbeau Ruckus in the six-horse Sir Barton.
The 1 1/16-mile distance will also be the first two-turn test for Dillinger.$136,625 Sir Barton Stakes, 1 1/6 mile, colts & geldings, 3 & up
1 / Mister Coop / John Ross / David Clark
2 / Barbeau Ruckus / Ross Armata / Constant Montpellier
3 / Twice Bid / Rita Schnitzler / Jono Jones
4 / Sophia's Prince / John LeBlanc Jr. / Simon Husbands
5 / El Habanero / Mac Benson / Robert Landry
6 / Dillinger / Steve Attard / Emile Ramsammy