05/16/2012 2:59PM

Pimlico: Dixie Stakes tops Preakness Day undercard

Lou Hodges Jr.
Casino Host, winner of the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds last out, tops the field for the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico.

BALTIMORE – Pimlico fans won’t have to while away Saturday just waiting for the Preakness to roll around. A terrific undercard precedes the second jewel of the Triple Crown, with a deep 111th running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Dixie Stakes serving as the traditional lead-in race.

Casino Host, winner of the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds last out, heads a Dixie field that also includes Smart Bid, Air Support, and Straight Story. A field of 11 older horses was entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

First post for the 13-race Saturday card is 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The Dixie (race 11, 5:18) directly precedes the Preakness (race 12).

A 4-year-old Dynaformer colt trained by Chad Brown, Casino Host is unbeaten in two starts in 2012 after mostly struggling last year at 3. He was assigned the far outside post with John Velazquez on a return call.

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Working backward, here is a brief look at the other Saturday supporting events:

◗ Grade 3, $100,000 Allaire duPont Stakes (race 10, 4:36): Awesomemundo, an impressive winner of a Santa Anita allowance last out, could be favored for Mike Smith and Bob Baffert after drawing post 5 for this 1 1/16-mile race. Nine fillies and mares are entered.

◗ $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes (race 9, 3:53): Done Talking, 14th in the Kentucky Derby, wheels back and moves to turf in this one-mile race, which formerly was known as the Woodlawn Stakes. Twelve 3-year-olds are entered in one of the deeper races of the day.

◗ Grade 3, $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap (race 8, post 3:12): Eight-year-old Ravalo, an earner of more than $1.2 million, will have Velazquez up when starting from the outside post in a field of 10 older sprinters. Other contenders include Hamazing Destiny, Action Andy, Broad Rule, and Wildcat Brief, a supplemental entry.

◗ $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes (race 6, 1:50): Eight 3-year-old sprinters are entered in this race named for the late former Pimlico general manager long known as “Mr. Preakness.” Il Vilano figures as one of the favorites when making his first start since finishing second in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream in February.

◗ Grade 3, $150,000 Gallorette Stakes (race 3, 11:30): Zagora, winner of the Grade 1 Diana last summer, figures as a solid favorite when trying to rebound off a defeat as the favorite in the Jenny Wiley last month at Keeneland. Seven fillies and mares are entered in this 1 1/16-mile turf race.

The Saturday card also will include a Grade 1 race for Arabians, the $75,000 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup. The race will be a non-numbered “special wagering event” run between the third and fourth races at 12:02. It is excluded from the main card so as not to disrupt rolling multi-race wagers; only win-place-show and “vertical” exotic wagers will be taken.

Four allowances are on the card, including a 1 1/16-mile race that drew Brimstone Island, who was withdrawn from Preakness consideration earlier in the week.