Juddmonte homebred Set Piece, unhurried in the early going, came with a sweeping move through the stretch on the extreme outside to reel in Tango Tango Tango and pacesetting Atone and capture Saturday’s $250,000 Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico Race Course.
Pimlico’s oldest stakes race and the eighth-oldest in the country, the Dinner Party was contested at two miles for its 1870 debut, won by the Hall of Famer Preakness. The distance has changed eight times over its history, settling at the current 1 1/16 miles in 2014.
Set Piece ($6.20) covered the distance in 1:41.64 over a firm course to snap a three-race losing streak dating back to his victory in the Wise Dan (G2) last June. It was the second Dinner Party win for jockey Florent Geroux and trainer Brad Cox, following Factor This in 2020.
Geroux and Cox also teamed up to win Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico with Interstatedaydream.
Trained by Mike Maker, who won last year’s Dinner Party with Somelikeithotbrown, Atone flashed early speed and was left alone through a quarter-mile in 23.44 seconds with English Bee second and Tango Tango Tango saving ground along the rail. English Bee, seventh in the 2021 Dinner Party, and Tango Tango Tango closed the gap after a half-mile in 47.81.
Set Piece, who trailed all but one horse, Nathan Detroit, in the early going, was tipped outside by Geroux rounding the far turn and began to roll on the far outside, gaining ground with every stride and getting to the front in the final sixteenth of a mile to earn his 10th career victory from 20 starts.
Tango Tango Tango edged Atone by a neck for second, with late-running Beacon Hill another length back in fourth followed by English Bee, Nathan Detroit and Novo Sol.
Set Piece is a gelded 6-year-old son of Dansili bred in England. He had raced once this year off a seven-month layoff, finishing seventh by two lengths in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) April 15 at Keeneland. The Dinner Party was his first race beyond a mile since the Wise Dan.
$250,000 Dinner Party (G2) Quotes
Winning trainer Brad Cox, Set Piece (by phone): “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.
"[Jockey] Florent [Geroux] did a great job. It looked like they were strung out down the backside. He responds well when there’s some pace to run at. 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 good horse. 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 Juddmonte.”
Winning jockey Florent Geroux, Set Piece: “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.”
“This horse is a closer, so sometimes things don’t go his way. It happens with a closer on the turf; you hope there’s a good pace. In my opinion, he can win a Grade 1. I’m not saying he’s going to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but I can see him winning a race like the Woodbine Mile or the Fourstardave.”
“I thought his last race was great; being wide and trying to run off pretty much all the way. Today, he covered up nicely and was nice and relaxed. When I tipped him out, I could tell I was going really fast.”
Trainer Jack Sisterson, Tango Tango Tango, 2nd: “He ran really well. We just got beat by a better horse. Had him in the perfect spot turning for home, if he was good enough he would have won but he was beat by a better horse today.
"He was in the perfect spot, [jockey] Tyler [Gaffalione] looked like he had a lot of horse, but credit to Brad [Cox] and those guys on their win. But I was very happy. It was a step up in class for him, but I think he deserved it with what he’s done in his 4-year-old campaign, so it was worth a shot.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, Tango Tango Tango, 2nd: “I wanted to break with some intention. I didn't see much speed on form. We sat close to the pace and he relaxed nicely. I had a nice trip around, sat third, got the spot I needed turning for home, and he kicked on with a good, strong finish through the wire.”
Trainer Mike Maker, Atone, 3rd: “He [jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.] had to go to the front, I would have preferred to sit off it. I thought the first quarter was strong, but, having said that, he was doing it easily. Third best.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Atone, 3rd: “He broke good, and I didn't want to fight with him too much. We made the lead before the first turn, and he was in a good spot. He relaxed well and sprinted home. He was moving well and did everything right but win.”