Woodford Racing’s Switzerland made his stakes debut a successful one Saturday, splashing to a 3 ½-length victory in the $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) at legendary Pimlico Race Course for his fourth consecutive victory.
The 32nd running of the Maryland Sprint for 3-year-olds and up was among seven undercard stakes, three graded, on a 14-race program that supported the 143rd renewal of the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Switzerland ($7.80) ran six furlongs in 1:09.43 over a sloppy and sealed main track, just .43 seconds off the track record set by Northern Wolf in 1990. Long Haul Bay, the 8-5 favorite in a field of nine, was second, 2 ½ lengths ahead of Lewisfield. Irish Colonel was fourth.
A 4-year-old son of champion sprinter Speightstown, Switzerland was the fourth stakes win on the weekend and third of the day for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, following the $100,000 BMW James W. Murphy with Tap Daddy and the $200,000 ClearSpan Chick Lang with Mitole.
Santana and Asmussen also won the $100,000 Skipat Stakes with Vertical Oaks on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day program. They will team up in the Preakness with Tenfold.
“We’re just trying to finish out the day," Asmussen said. "As you know, we obviously have a lot on our plate here on out and hopefully it will keep up.”
“He came into the barn a fast horse, and we’ve been able to maintain that. I think the key to today’s race was him being able to get away with going 22 4/5 the first quarter. He came into the barn really fast. He did come with (allowance conditions). But I’m a numbers guy, a ‘sheets’ guy, and just trying to maintain the ability he came to us with.”
“I was surprised, the way the day’s played, that he was able to do that in the first quarter. You felt good. You say, ‘I like my chances from here,’ and he came home beautifully.”
“The progression through his conditions and then the timing from the last day at Oaklawn to today was just ideal. He’d moved to Churchill with the barn and was training well. We were excited about this opportunity. I think with a win in a race like this, we will regroup and see what’s out there for older sprint horses and take a big swing.”
Red Dragon Tattoo was quickest from the gate in front through a quarter-mile in 22.94 seconds but Switzerland took over the top spot after a half in 45.69. Lewisfield, making his graded debut, split horses around the turn to get into a challenging position but couldn’t catch the winner, who had plenty left to repel a bid from Grade 3 winner Long Haul Bay on the far outside.
After taking eight tries to break his maiden under previous trainer Chad Brown, breaking through in the slop Feb. 16 at Aqueduct, Switzerland has won each of his three starts this year since joining Asmussen, one of only two trainers with 8,000 or more career victories.
The Maryland Sprint and the $100,000 The Very One for fillies and mares at five furlongs for fillies and mares 3 and up are part of the renewed Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series which kicked off on Preakness weekend. MATCH is an assortment of 25 races at tracks in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania which originally debuted in 1997 and ran for five years.