05/18/2013 4:41PM

Dixie Stakes: Skyring upsets at 24-1

Tom Keyser
Skyring (No. 10) and jockey Gary Stevens led the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes from start to finish Saturday at Pimlico.

BALTIMORE – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had the competition surrounded in the Grade 2, $300,000 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, sending out Skyring to a wire-to-wire win at 24-1 and uncoupled stablemate Optimizer to a third-place finish. The horses were split by Willcox Inn.

“It was wonderful,” Lukas said of the efforts from the horses he trains for Calumet Farm.

Skyring ($50.40) was returning to the surface over which he won last year’s James W. Murphy Stakes and jumped out to the lead at the start of the 1 1/8-mile Dixie, which was run on firm turf. He was clear through an opening quarter-mile in 24.45 seconds, which about matched his odds.

Skyring, under Gary Stevens, proceeded to lead through a half-mile in 48.32 and six furlongs in 1:11.98. He quickened through a mile in 1:35.20, then held off a fast-closing Willcox Inn for a half-length win. Skyring covered the distance in 1:47.87.

Lukas said familiarity with the turf at Pimilico worked in Skyring’s favor, as did the fact that front-runners had fared well on the card, among their wins a pair of turf stakes, the Grade 3, $150,000 Gallorette and this year’s $100,000 James W. Murphy.

“A lot of that goes unnoticed sometimes, when a horse has an affinity for a surface like that,” Lukas said. “And the track was playing quick, the turf … It was obvious you could get out there and maybe hang on. When he’s on his game, he’s very, very good.”

[PREAKNESS STAKES: Race replays and reactions from Pimlico]

Lukas, who is based at Churchill Downs, said he has not yet determined next-race plans for Skyring or Optimizer.

Willcox Inn came rolling for second under jockey James Graham.

“I think he was in a good spot,” Michael Stidham, who trains Willcox Inn, said of Graham. “Turning for home, he had the choice to either stay down in there or switch out, and I think he did the right thing to switch out, get some clear sailing. He almost got there. Not quite.”

Stidham said Willcox Inn would return to Arlington Park, with is next race to be determined.

Utley and Thunder Lord were scratched from the Dixie.