05/17/2017 3:50PM

Dixie Stakes strong lead-in to Preakness

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ring Weekend, an earner of nearly $1.5 million, will be among the favorites in the Dixie Stakes on Friday.

BALTIMORE – A race as big as the Preakness can’t be presented without all the trimmings, so, true to form, the Maryland Jockey Club will offer up seven other stakes to keep bettors entertained on another long Saturday of racing at Pimlico.

Foremost among those supporting features is the Grade 2, $250,000 Dixie Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that serves as a deserving lead-in to the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Ring Weekend and World Approval will square off against the Chad Brown duo of Projected and Catapult among a field of 10 older horses in the 116th Dixie, which directly precedes the Preakness as the 12th of 14 races.

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First post Saturday is 10:30 a.m. Eastern, with the Dixie at 5:39 p.m., the Preakness (race 13) at 6:48, and the 14th race at 7:35.

Ring Weekend, fifth in the 2014 Preakness, has developed into a highly effective middle-distance turf runner for owners St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Graham Motion. The 6-year-old gelding has won multiple graded stakes, earned nearly $1.5 million, and enters off a fourth in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March.

World Approval, an earner of more than $950,000 for Live Oak Plantation, was supposed to run two weeks ago in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard but was scratched because of yielding turf. The gray 5-year-old was an easy winner against Florida-breds in his last start April 2 at Tampa Bay Downs.

“He’s trained really well since the Tampa race,” said Norman Casse, son and assistant of trainer Mark Casse. “We were disappointed we didn’t get to run in the Woodford but excited about the Dixie.”

In reverse order, here’s a rundown of the other Preakness Day stakes:

◗ $100,000 Sir Barton (race 11, 4:43): Hedge Fund, narrowly defeated by Preakness contender Multiplier in the Illinois Derby, looks like the horse to beat in a 1 1/16-mile race that drew 10 3-year-olds. No Mo Dough, Resiliency, Society Beau, and Time to Travel are among the opposition.

◗ Grade 3, $150,000 Gallorette (race 10, 4:07): Elysea’s World, from the powerhouse Brown barn, and On Leave, making her 4-year-old debut for Shug McGaughey, figure as favorites among a field of 10 fillies and mares in this 1 1/16-mile turf race.

◗ Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes (race 9, post 3:27): A. P. Indian will line up against the red-hot Whitmore and seven other older sprinters in a terrific 31st running of this six-furlong race. A. P. Indian won six of seven starts last year, while Whitmore has gone undefeated in four races, all sprints, since getting time off after the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

◗ $100,000 James W. Murphy (race 8, 2:47): In perhaps the deepest of all the undercard stakes, Dover Cliffs, Yoshida, and Adonis Creed should be among the favorites in this one-mile race for 3-year-olds. Thirteen are entered.

◗ $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes (race 7, 2:07): Florida-bred Three Rules, who failed at longer distances on the Triple Crown trail this year, will turn back to six furlongs. He breaks from post 1 in a field of nine 3-year-olds in a race named for the late, longtime Pimlico general manager.

◗ $100,000 The Very One Stakes (race 5, 12:51): Pretty Perfection, a two-time stakes winner in the filly-and-mare turf-sprint niche over the winter at Gulfstream Park for trainer Kelly Breen, heads a field of 11 in the first of the undercard stakes.