05/16/2009 12:00AM

Parading holds on to capture Dixie

Barbara D. Livingston
Parading and Kent Desormeaux edge clear en route to a half-length win in the Dixie.

BALTIMORE - Parading missed almost a year of racing, sidelined between May 2008 and April 2009. At age 6, he has come back a better horse. A month after easily winning the Ben Ali Stakes over Polytrack at Keeneland, Parading captured the Grade 2, $150,000 Dixie Stakes on the Pimlico grass course Saturday.

A homebred from the Phipps Stable trained by Shug McGaughey, 6-year-old Parading now has won 7 of 17 starts, and even at his relatively advanced age, he seems ascendant. Nipped by a nose in his first post-layoff start, a Keeneland grass race, Parading won the Ben Ali by 7 1/2 lengths last month at Keeneland. The margin was much smaller Saturday, just a half-length, but Parading got the job done.

Parading closed from well off the pace and occasionally stalked the early leaders before he was sidelined, but this year, he has shown more early speed. That style served him well in the Dixie, which unfolded at a moderate tempo. German invader Lauro was the surprise early leader from post 12, but wasn't going quickly, setting fractions of 24.64 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and 48.75 for the half. Major longshot Senior was second, Monba was at the fence in third, and just outside of him in fourth sat Parading and Kent Desormeaux.

Desormeaux moved surprisingly early, going up toward the leaders midway around the far turn, but this was no premature move.

"When he got beat at Keeneland, I let my horse get outsprinted," said Desormeaux. "He doesn't have that big European-style kick."

What Parading has is a long, sustained run. He edged up to a tiring Lauro at the top of the stretch, pushed past by a nose at the stretch call, had a clear lead a sixteenth of a mile from home, and held on over a fast-closing Just as Well.

"When I squeezed him coming into the stretch, he laid his body down all the way to the wire," Desormeaux said.

A few more yards, and Just as Well might have gotten there. Ninth in the early going, Just as Well began picking off horses on the far turn, but really didn't kick in till the final furlong, said rider Julien Leparoux.

"When I started riding him, it took a little time to accelerate," Leparoux said. "I think that cost us."

Wesley finished a fairly promising third, considering he started slowly and raced in last for much of the trip. He finished rapidly for third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Just as Well.

Parading paid $6.60 to win, and was timed in 1:48.28 for 1 1/8 miles on firm turf.