Dixie Stakes Tops Preakness Day Undercard

May 15, 2014 12:57pm
Hey Leroy works at Pimlico.
Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Hey LeRoy, miscast as a dirt horse in his youth, found himself after being claimed by owner Ron Sanchez and put in the care of veteran trainer Manny Azpurua.  The 4-year-old is now a grass horse and comes into Saturday’s historic 113th running of the $400,000 Dixie Stakes (G2) as the favorite.


“We’re expecting him to win,” Sanchez said. “He’s been training well and we have the best rider in Javier Castellano.”


Hey LeRoy has had five different riders in his last five races and Castellano will be number six in six.


“Just circumstances,” Sanchez said. “I love that he is riding my horse. With Javier, Manny and me, our whole team is from Venezuela.”


Sanchez said his horse is much different from when he was claimed.


“He loves the grass and his numbers are pretty good,” the owner said. “If everything goes as we plan, we think we have a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.”


The Dixie, which dates to 1870, when it was won by Preakness – the horse the Preakness Stakes is named for - is one of nine stakes, four of them graded, among Saturday’s 13-races. The first post is 10:45 a.m. The Dixie, as the 11th race on the program, immediately precedes the 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.


Despite Sanchez’s enthusiasm, it is unlikely the 5-2 favorite will have everything his own way in the 10-horse field. Hey LeRoy, sired by Any Given Saturday, will see competition from more than one gate. Up With the Birds, the Canadian Horse of the Year trained by Pierce Malcolm, is the second choice at 5-1. While the Stormy Atlantic offspring comes in off a sixth-place performance at Keeneland in his only race this year, he has six wins in his last 9 races.


Locally, Sagamore Farms will send out Maryland bred Hamp. Sired by Sky Mesa, Hamp is a 12-1 shot, but Sagamore trainer Ignacio Correas said he has been pointing the 4-year-old to the Dixie for three months.


“He’s not the favorite to win the race, but I think we have an advantage in that he’s run on the track before,” Correas said. “My horse is a very special horse.  There are not many Maryland-breds running this weekend and we have Hamp and two others bred at Sagamore.


“My horse comes from way off the pace,” Correas said, pointing to Hamp’s last win in the $100,000 Henry Clark Stakes run over a mile at Pimlico. “At the half-mile he was last.


“I’m not worried about the pace. Usually in the good races they have a good pace.  I think some horses will come back to him. And, I think we have a shot.  He belongs in the race. Now he needs to run the best race of his life and I think he’ll do it; and I hope that’s enough.”


The Grade 3, 6-furlong  $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap will be the fifth race of the afternoon. It will see six horses going to post, with 4-year-old Happy My Way, with lifetime winnings of $272,185, going off as the 6-5 favorite. Maryland racing fans might want to watch Maryland-bred Action Andy at 8-1. The son of Gators N Bears has 12 career wins, more than any other horse in the field.


Ten fillies and mares are expected in the very competitive ninth race of the day, the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap. The $150,000 race will be competed on the turf and features three graded stakes winners – Strathnaver, the morning line favorite at 3-1, Somali Lemonade (7-2) and Watsdachances (4-1).


Non-graded stakes on the card are: the $100,000 The Very One (race 6), which has 15 fillies and mares entered for the 5 furlong turf challenge; the $100,000 Chick Lang (race 7), with nine entries for the 6 furlong test for 3-year-olds; the $100,000 James W. Murphy (race 8) another test for 3-year-olds, this one drawing 11 for the 1-mile turf test; the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes (race 10) for 3-year-olds who have not won a sweepstakes and the $40,000 Deputed Testamony Starter Handicap (race 2) for Maryland-breds.



Dylan Dreyer of TODAY will be at Pimlico Race Course on Friday morning, discussing Black-Eyed Susan Day and Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. On Saturday morning’s Weekend TODAY, Carolyn Manno will be live from Pimlico with a look at California Chrome’s run for the Triple Crown.


NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network will offer eight hours of coverage: Friday from 3-5 p.m. and 1-7 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Post time for the Preakness is 6:20 p.m. Eastern.


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