05/16/2008 11:00PM

Pays to Dream upsets Dixie

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BALTIMORE - Pays to Dream overcame a soft Pimlico turf course and a pedestrian pace with an electrifying stretch kick that carried him to an emphatic 7 1/2-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Dixie Stakes.

Stay Close, who stalked the longshot pacesetter Ra Der Dean, finished second by a head over Ra Der Dean. He was followed in the order of finish by Distorted Reality, even-money favorite Shakis, Pick Six, Headsandtales, Buffalo Man, and Salinja.

The victory was the first in a graded stakes for Pays to Dream, a New York-bred son of High Yield owned by the Dragone family's December Hill Farm and trained by David Donk. Coincidentally, Chris Dragone is in his final days as president and general manager of Pimlico.

Pays to Dream had not run well in his one race over a less-than-firm turf course. Then, when the Dixie went in fractions of 26.36 seconds 51.71, and 1:16.24 for the opening three-quarters of a mile and Pays to Dream was last, Donk thought his horse might be in trouble.

But after saving ground all the way, Javier Castellano swung Pays to Dream out in the three path turning for home and he exploded past the leaders in upper stretch and came home a convincing winner despite switching leads back and forth in deep stretch.

Pays to Dream covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:54.74 over a turf course labeled good and returned $40.40 to win.

Castellano said he was trying to follow Ramon Dominguez aboard Shakis because he felt that was the horse to beat. But when he saw an opening along the rail around the far turn, he took it.

"They opened the rail and when they opened the rail I had so much horse," Castellano said. "I got through on the rail, he passed the horses, he went by so easy he really, really exploded in the end."

Said Donk: "That was impressive. I'm glad I train him."

Early in the week, Michael Zwiesler, trainer of Stay Close, was hemming and hawing whether to run his horse. After Stay Close stalked the slow pace and held on to be second, he was glad he opted to run.

"Anna [Napravnik] rode a great race," Zweisler said. "She got him to relax and he ran his race. David's horse just outkicked us."

Dominguez said Shakis "didn't handle the soft going at all. After a quarter-mile he was just struggling to keep up. It's pretty soft out there. I'm surprised they have it labeled as good. It's not good, it's soft."