Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Takeover Target overcame a wide trip and trailed in last turning for home, but found the highest gear in the final sixteenth May 21 to capture the $250,000 Longines Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT).
It was the 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt's third graded stakes victory and second on a less-than-firm turf course. He won the Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) on soft turf in October at Belmont Park.
It appeared to be a stretch duel with favorites Grand Arch and Ring Weekend, both grade I winners, until the Chad Brown-trained Takeover Target got into the clear on the outside and surged by. The top pair edged Ring Weekend, who was coming off 14-month layoff following his win in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT), by a neck. Grand Arch finished another half-length back in third.
"It was a great performance and a great ride, and a great stretch run," said Brown assistant Dermot Megner. "We're really proud of him."
El Kabeir, in his first start on grass, set the pace with fractions of :23.94 and :48.56 through the first half-mile, but back up harshly. Grand Arch inherited the lead through six furlongs in 1:12.94, and Takeover Target still had 4 3/4 lengths to make up as they turned for home, but was hampered by Prince Gagarin at the top of the stretch and had to re-rally. He hit the wire in 1:44.76 for 1 1/16 miles on good turf.
"The horse in front of me started to stop and I had to take hold, because there was another horse coming up outside of me," Rosario said. "He got right back in stride, though. He is always close and I know that he would be today."
The winner paid $9, $4.40, and $2.80 across the board. Ring Weekend brought $4 and $2.80, and Grand Arch delivered $2.60 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by Dorothy Matz, out of the Empire Maker mare Vanquished, Takeover Target now has a 5-2-0 record from 11 starts with earnings of $795,935