Updated on 09/16/2011 7:24AM

Strut the Stage struts his stuff in Dixie victory

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BALTIMORE - Strut the Stage had raced eight times before Saturday, and never in any of those races had he been closer than third, or 2 1/2 lengths off the pace, in the early going. But when the field for the Grade 2, $200,000 left the gate, the pace was so slow that Strut the Stage fell into the lead.

And then he strutted his stuff. In an effort that serves warning that Strut the Stage will be among the turf division leaders this year, the mighty mite pulled away for a 2 1/2-length victory over Del Mar Show at Pimlico Race Course. Slew the Red was another length back in third. The first three finishers ran 1-2-3 the entire race.

Strut the Stage's victory was not unexpected. He was the 8-5 favorite. But the method with which he accomplished it could not have been predicted. "My initial plan wasn't to be in front, but he broke sharp, and I didn't want to get into a wrestling match with him," said Robby Albarado, who rode Strut the Stage.

Racing on a course rated yielding, Strut the Stage coasted through fractions of 25.31 seconds, 49.94, and 1:15.11 for the first six furlongs. Del Mar Show was always closest, and made a bid at Strut the Stage after turning into the lane, but in the final furlong Strut the Stage was strongest, and he drew clear. Strut the Stage was timed in 1:51.70 for 1 1/8 miles.

"He's a little bulldog," Albarado said. "He's all heart."

Mark Frostad, the trainer of Strut the Stage, called the 4-year-old "a real character."

"He's a tough, little horse," Frostad said. "He loves the bumping."

Frostad said he would consider Belmont Park's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on June 8, Belmont Stakes Day, as the next possible start for Strut the Stage.

Strut the Stage has now won six times in nine starts. He also just missed in last summer's Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. Strut the Stage is owned by the Samuel family's Sam-Son Farms.