A fairly compelling renewal of the $200,000 Dinner Party (G3), formerly known as the Dixie, tops the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico on Saturday. The field of seven, which will travel 1 1/16 miles on the turf, includes a pair of Grade 1 winners.
Those two are Atone and Speaking Scout, who ran first and third, respectively, in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) in January. However, both exit sub-par performances in their respective last starts, Atone’s being a trailing journey in the Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds and Speaking Scout’s a distant fifth in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).
Speaking Scout, who won the Hollywood Derby (G1) last fall, will be joined by fellow Graham Motion barn mates Easter and Hurricane Dream. The latter was particularly impressive last month at Keeneland, blowing away allowance rivals by 4 1/2 lengths under Frankie Dettori. Hurricane Dream was previously 10th, beaten four lengths, in the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
Others of note include multiple graded winner Emmanuel and Muniz Memorial runner-up Rising Empire.
Former European mainstays Whitebeam and Sopran Basilea appear the ones to topple in the $100,000 Gallorette (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The Chad Brown-trained Whitebeam missed by a neck in her U.S. debut, the April 16 Plenty of Grace S. at Aqueduct, while Italian import Sopran Basilea was a neck away from defending her title in the Premio Lydia Tesio (G2) in Rome when last seen in November. She is now trained by Graham Motion.
Motion has two others in the lineup, including Dueling Grounds Oaks winner Vergara, while Brown has backup in the Grade 1-placed stakes winner Eminent Victor. Another contender is Princess Theorem, who placed in the Honey Fox (G3) and Sand Springs S. in her last two.
One of the more intriguing features on the program takes place in the $200,000 Chick Lang (G3), where speedballs Havnameltdown and Super Chow will top the market in the six-furlong dash, which attracted a field of seven three-year-olds.
A three-time graded winner for Bob Baffert, Havnameltdown has also run a distant second to stablemate Cave Rock in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and missed narrowly over an extended mile in the Saudi Derby when last seen in late February. Super Chow, meanwhile, has notched a quartet of stakes wins at a variety of tracks, albeit all at Listed level. Additional stakes winners in the field include Ryvit, Frosted Departure, and Prince of Jericho.
Futurity (G3) winner Nagirroc, who has won or placed in all six outings, is the early favorite for the $100,000 James W. Murphy S., which immediately precedes the Preakness (G1). The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) third and recent Transylvania (G3) runner-up is joined by eight other three-year-olds in the one-mile grass test, including stakes scorers Wonderful Justice and Funtastic Again.
A baker’s dozen will zip five furlongs in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, with Artemus Citylimits, Nothing Better, and That’s Right among the classier contenders. The $100,000 Maryland Sprint (G3), over six furlongs on the dirt, includes Nakatomi, Straight No Chaser, and Wondrwherecraigis, while Grade 3-placed Beguine is a mild early choice in the $100,000 Skipat S. for fillies and mares over the same distance. Also in the Skipat lineup is Gunning, an older half-sister to Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage.
Arabian Lion will be an overwhelming favorite to beat five rivals to the wire in the $100,000 Sir Barton S. over 1 1/16 miles. Recently second to Preakness contender First Mission in the Lexington (G3), Arabian Lion was pegged the early 2-5 favorite in the three-year-old test restricted to non-stakes winners.