Cobra Farm's Twisted Tom again got the best of O Dionysus at Laurel Park when the Creative Cause gelding tracked the pace early before pulling away in the stretch to win the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths.
The duo also finished 1-2, with Twisted Tom in front by a nose, last time out in the March 18 Private Terms Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Laurel. Twisted Tom seemed to benefit from staying closer to the pace and the slight stretch out in distance, traveling 1 1/8 miles over a sloppy, sealed track April 22.
"He broke sharper today. I just got into a nice rhythm all the way," jockey Feargal Lynch said. "I thought O Dionysus might struggle to stay and I knew from my horse's gallop-out last time that he would like the distance. Today he had no kickback and a small field.
"He's a turfer and a mudder and a very adaptable, huge horse who should get better," he added of the Chad Brown-trained runner who broke his maiden on the turf at Belmont Park last September.
Longshot Hashtag Alex went for the lead out of the gate, as Twisted Tom and Action Everyday tracked closely and odds-on favorite Carradine raced another 2 1/2 lengths back in fourth with O Dionysus at the back of the field.
Hashtag Alex set fractions of :24.39 and :48.08 for a half-mile and then dropped back, as Lynch asked Twisted Tom to move up and take over after six furlongs in 1:13.27. Going three wide again on the far turn, Twisted Tom managed to maintain a slight advantage over O Dionysus in the stretch and finished home with a driving effort to stop the clock in 1:53.60.
Action Everyday finished another 2 3/4 lengths back in third, getting a nose over Carradine. Hashtag Alex completed the order of finish.
Twisted Tom returned $12.60, $5.20, and $5.60 across the board.
The Tesio is a "Win and You're In" event for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20 at Pimlico Race Course. However, since Twisted Tom is not Triple Crown nominated, his connections would have to pay a $150,000 nomination fee to run in the Preakness.
"Because he's not (Triple Crown) nominated it certainly complicates things, so I'll speak to the ownership group," Brown said. "Right now we'll just enjoy this win. We'll see how the horse comes out of the race physically and then we'll all probably speak about it next week sometime and come up with a plan.
"He ran terrific and Feargal really rode him well once again. They're a great team, those two. The horse showed a lot of heart again. He's a long-winded, hard-trying horse that obviously showed he has a tremendous amount of stamina and will to win. He's a horse that continually is improving, which we love to see. We're just really proud of his effort today."
Bred in New York by Dr. William B. Wilmot and Dr. Joan M. Taylor, the 3-year-old now has four wins from six total starts, with earnings of $209,040.
Sumaya U.S. Stable's daughter of Eskendereya, who was sent off as the even-money favorite, stalked the pace before pulling away in the stretch to win by two lengths over Forever Liesl. The Todd Pletcher-trained filly completed the 1 1/16 miles in a final time of 1:45.22.