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Jockey Florent Geroux helps Set Piece cool off after winning the Dinner Party Stakes on the 2022 Preakness undercard.
The over 60,000 fans in attendance at Pimlico (the smallest since 1976 not including the COVID-restricted years) for the Preakness Stakes (G1) were treated to a marathon 14-race card with the first race off at 10:35am. It was unusually hot with partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 90's with the main track fast and the turf course firm.
A field of 7 older horses contested the $250,000 Dinner Party Stakes (G2) over 1 1/16 miles on the turf, run as the Dixie for a number of years. Set Piece was sent off as the 2-1 favorite off seventh place finishes in the Woodbine Mile (G1) in September and the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) in April. In to challenge him included 9-4 second choice Atone, 4th in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Maker's Mark Mile, and 5-2 third choice Beacon Hill, second in he Point of Entry at Belmont and an allowance at Keeneland.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Atone to lead first time by through fractions of 23.44, 47.81, and 1:12.56 while pressed by 9-1 English Bee and stalked by 7-1 Tango Tango Tango. In the stretch Atone continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:35.90 before fading. Favorite Set Piece, 6th early under Florent Geroux, came out 5 wide for room and rallied by to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Tango Tango Tango in 1:41.64. It was a neck back to Atone third.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Set Piece in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brad Cox said, "We were looking to settle today. Last time at Keeneland, we didn't settle off the layoff. I don't know if that was him being fresh off the layoff or what it was. But he did settle today, and that had a lot to do with him having a really good closing kick. It looked like they were strung out down the backside. He responds well when there's some pace to run out. I thought there was enough pace, based off the races I saw yesterday and today. The turf course seems to be pretty fair there. He's a gelding, but our goal is definitely to try to get a Grade 1 win at some point in his career. I just think it would be neat for him and obviously for [owner] Juddmonte."
Right: Set Piece gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey Florent Geroux said, "I could tell when my horse was off the bridle in the first turn, there was a good enough pace. I don't know the exact fractions, but from there I just sat and laid back and when the horses came back to me before the quarter pole, I kept it simple and let him do his thing the last quarter of a mile. Today, he covered up nicely and was nice and relaxed. When I tipped him out, I could tell I was going really fast. In my opinion, he can win a Grade 1, a race like the Woodbine Mile or the Fourstardave."
Left: Second place finisher Tango Tango Tango returns after the race. The Jack Sisterson trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third in 9 starts, earning $293,591 for owner Calumet Farm.
Right: Third place finisher Atone in the post parade. The Mike Maker trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds in 17 starts, earning $309,646 for owner Three Diamonds Farm.
Left: Jaxon Traveler in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "He was going along pretty easy, and I was just going along for the ride. He showed speed from the start, so I let him go. He broke good, so I put him on the lead. I was in front off the inside on the turn. When he came to me off the turn, my horse really responded. He did great today."
Right: Jaxon Traveler heads back to the barn. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "I think Jaxon Traveler has run extremely well here at Pimlico. That's his third stakes win here [in Maryland]. So, we've been looking forward to this race for quite some time. When he breaks well, he runs well. He hit the ground running and proved best. That's who he's always been. This was a major target for him, a very good victory for him, his first graded-stakes win, so we'll sit down and discuss it with West Point to see where we'll run him next."
Left: Technical Analysis in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "I was just a passenger. She was much the best today. She looked like it on paper, and she just went out there and did what she had to do. Chad had her ready. She's a little quirky. You don't fight with her. You just have to let her be happy and find a good rhythm. She was relaxed, is the main thing. She wasn't paying attention to the infield, and I was very happy down the backside. She keeps improving. Her speed and her turn of foot is dangerous in any race. I think she'll be a contender in the division. Chad has a lot of them. He'll decide where to place her next time."
Right: Technical Analysis heads back to the barn. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "She was able to take control of the race, which it looked like on paper, which made her the heavy favorite here. So relieved to see her respond. Once she took control of the race going down the backside, I felt pretty good. She got tested, by, what I think, is really good filly [Crystal Cliffs] turning for home that made her move early and tried her. I was very interested to see how she responded after her first race of the year [second in the Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct April 16] where she got a wide trip and got beat, It was a good, solid race, but the second race off the layoff would really tell the story to me where we are headed, and it looks like we are headed someplace good."
The $100,000 Skipat Stakes featured a field of 8 older fillies and mares sprinting 6 furlongs. 7-2 third choice Joy's Rocket set the pace of 22.57 and 45.06 while pressed by 3-1 second choice Time Limit and stalked by 9-4 favorite Cilla. Turning for home Joy's Rocket continued to lead through 5f in 57.13, and drew off under a handride by Joel Rosario to win by 4 1/4 lengths over 11-2 fifth choice Fille d'Esprit in 1:09.76. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Time Limit third, while favorite Cilla checked in fifth beaten 7 1/2 lengths.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Joy's Rocket in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "I was glad to see her get away from the gate so clean today. She's run gamely all year. We went back to the pace she showed when she was two and was winning races. She's competing well. But this put her back in the winner's circle. And I thought the break and the first quarter of a mile was the key. When she was away well, I thought it gave her a very good chance to win and she proved best."
Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Cilla in the post parade. The Brett Brinkman trainee has a record of 7 wins, 1 second, and 3 thirds in 16 starts, earning $484,000 for owner-breeder P. Dale Ladner.
Left: Lightening Larry in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jorge Delgado celebrating his first graded stakes win said, "Everything went very fast, but I could tell the horse broke on his game. We've been training for this race specifically since February. I knew at the quarter-pole. He always has a strong finish so when he was close to the other horse, I knew he had a big chance, but I recognize Steve Asmussen is a great trainer, so you never know until the very end. This is my first time in a big stakes race like this, my first graded-stakes win, and I'm beyond grateful it happened this way. It's a day I will never forget. I'm looking forward to tonight. I'll have a nice dinner and watch the race many, many times."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Cogburn in the post parade. Trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Cogburn was away from the gate well. The horse that went with him ended up winning the race." Jockey Joel Rosario added, "He broke well and went to the lead. He did everything right. He just couldn't hold on at the end. The winner ran a big race. The pace was fast, and we were going easy. My horse ran a big race. That's how it goes sometimes."
Left: Joe in the winner's circle. Named after President Joe Biden, a friend of owner Stuart Grant, Joe was Maryland's champion 2-year-old male in 2021. Grant said, "This is so exciting. It really is because this is the second stakes race in a row where he was headed in the stretch and he just keeps fighting back. It's just awesome when he does that. He just doesn't know how to give up. The switch over to turf, Mike [Trombetta] had been pushing for it and I said, 'Mike, this horse will either make you a genius or a dummy.' Mike said he is a turf horse, and he was right. He ran his first race on turf, but that was too short, and it was the only time he was off the board."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Ready to Purrform in the post parade. The Brad Cox trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 0 thirds in 4 starts, earning $141,100 for owner Donegal Racing.
Left: Ethereal Road heads to the winner's circle. Winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "That's what we expected. That's his style. It was a picture-perfect ride from Luis. We probably should have left him in the Derby, but that's hindsight. He got a good trip. The fractions are realistic. We can definitely build off this."
Right: Ethereal Road heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Luis Saez said,"He ran pretty nice. The pace was perfect for him. It's the style he likes to run – break and make one move. He finished really strong. It's a special moment (to win for Lukas on Preakness day). He's a legend, so to be part of a special moment for him, I feel so grateful."
The $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint featured 9 older horses going 5 furlongs on the turf. Jockey Luis Saez sent 7-5 favorite Carotari to the lead immdiately through an opening quarter of 21.90 while saving ground on the turn pressed by 7-1 Hollis and stalked by 5-1 Grateful Bred. In the stretch, Carotari opened up a 2 1/2 length lead through a half in 44.69. 9-1 Smokin' Jay put in a late rally from 5th to no avail as Carotari cruised to a 1 1/2 length win in 56.52. It was a nose back to 4-1 second choice Seven Scents third.
Full results chart from DRF
Left: Carotari in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "He is pretty fast. He is pretty quick. That is the way he likes to be. Today, he ran pretty nice. I rode him pretty confident. When I came to the top of the stretch, I had a lot of horse. We just waited for somebody to come and close and just let him run. He did the rest. He was very comfortable. I could feel someone coming, but I had so much horse. He was still pretty strong. He is a pretty nice horse. He likes a track like this [firm]. It was perfect."
Right: Carotari gets hosed off after the race. The Brian Lynch trainee improved his record to 9 wins, 6 seconds, and 3 thirds in 25 starts, earning $616,863 for owner William Branch.
Left: Hiab Al Zaman heads to the winner's circle. The Jeremias Castro trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 0 seconds, and 2 thirds in 10 starts, earning $113,473 for owner-breeders Susan and James Meyer.
Right: Hiab Al Zaman in the post parade.
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