05/15/2009 12:00AM

For a light division, Dixie looks difficult


BALTIMORE - Nationally speaking, the older-male turf division feels light right now, but that's not apparent from the $150,000 Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico. Thirteen were entered in the 1 1/8-mile grass race, and the Grade 2 rating seems just about right.

That's the racing-as-sport perspective. Handicapping-wise, the Dixie is a hodgepodge.

If 6-year-old Parading runs to his recent, career-best form, he'll have a major say. Parading won the Ben Ali over Keeneland Polytrack on April 19 by more than seven lengths, and trainer Shug McGaughey believes that Parading, a four-time turf winner, is just as good on turf. Parading has made just 16 starts, however, and didn't race between May 2008 and April 2009. Notably, he has been on or just off the lead in his two post-layoff starts after employing stalking or closing tactics in past seasons.

"He's starting to show some speed," said McGaughey. "I would think from the 3 post, he'd be somewhat close to the pace."

Strike a Deal won the Laurel Futurity 25 miles from here in 2006, but has never raced at Pimlico, and is unstarted since a seven-length romp in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap last November.

"I haven't cranked down on him, but he has run fresh before," said trainer Alan Goldberg. "The spring was so wet, the other day was the first time I could work him on turf. He doesn't get that much out of dirt."

Strike a Deal has started in Grade 1 or 2 races in five of his last six outings, but has seven second-place finishes compared to just four wins.

Proudinsky likes wet turf, but finished sixth over such going two weeks ago in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

"He was pulling a little too hard," said trainer Bobby Frankel.

Lauro won the Grade 2 Sky Classic last fall at Woodbine, but was left in Strike a Deal's wake in the Red Smith. He has shipped from Germany for trainer Andreas Wohler, a seasoned international trainer.

German-bred Musketier is in from Woodbine for trainer Roger Attfield, and was second behind stablemate Spice Route going 12 furlongs last out in the Elkhorn at Keeneland. Kiss the Kid has won 3 of 4, including a pair of Grade 3's, and his 0-for-3 record at this distance looks misleading. Wesley won the Grade 2 Hall of Fame last summer at Saratoga, and comes off a victory. Just as Well skipped the Turf Classic at Churchill when rain caused him to miss a key work the week of the race. Three starts ago, he was beaten less than a length by top-class Kip Deville. Grade 1 winner Monba makes his turf debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. And the other four - mercifully - appear overmatched.