Eight stakes on un­der­card

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Ni­cole Russo

Grade 1 win­ners Ring Week­end and Grand Arch head a salty field of 13 as they make their 2016 de­buts in the Grade 2, $250,000 Dixie Stakes for older horses on turf Satur­day at Pim­lico.

The Dixie is the rich­est of the eight stakes on the un­der­card of the $1.5 mil­lion Preak­ness Stakes and im­me­di­ately pre­cedes the clas­sic on the card. First post for Satur­day’s 14-race card is 10:30 a.m. Eastern.

Ring Week­end, based at the nearby Fair Hill Train­ing Cen­ter with trainer Gra­ham Mo­tion, has not started since win­ning the Grade 1 Frank E. Kil­roe Mile in March 2015. He sub­se­quently was side­lined by a pro­longed strug­gle with a foot ab­scess.

Grand Arch, trained by Brian Lynch, fin­ished his 2015 sea­son in the best form of his ca­reer, win­ning the Grade 2 Fourstar­dave Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Shad­well Mile at Keeneland be­fore fin­ish­ing third in the Breed­ers’ Cup Mile.

The two geld­ings drew to­ward the mid­dle of the field, with Grand Arch in post 7 un­der Luis Saez and Ring Week­end in post 9 un­der John Ve­lazquez.

Also in the Dixie lineup are Grade 1 win­ner Force the Pass; mul­ti­ple graded stakes win­ner El Kabeir, mak­ing his turf de­but; Cage Fighter, who fin­ished sec­ond in the 2015 Dixie; graded stakes win­ners Long On Value, Takeover Tar­get, Take the Stand, and Za Ap­proval; and group stake­splaced Prince Ga­garin, who won his U.S. de­but last month at Keeneland.

Else­where on the un­der­card, the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds drew a hand­ful of run­ners who were un­der Triple Crown con­sid­er­a­tion at one point, led by Daz­zling Gem. Af­ter win­ning his first two starts, the colt was third in the Louisiana Derby and fourth in the Arkansas Derby. His con­nec­tions opted for this 1 1/16-mile spot af­ter strongly con­sid­er­ing the 1 3/16-mile Preak­ness.

“Hon­estly, right now it might not be a bad thing to shorten this horse up a lit­tle bit,” trainer Brad Cox said. “His last two races have been a mile and an eighth. I’m not say­ing he can’t han­dle a mile and an eighth, but he cer­tainly didn’t jump out that he wanted even more ground go­ing a mile and three-six­teenths, so we’ll back him up a lit­tle bit, and it’s softer com­pe­ti­tion in the Sir Barton as op­posed to the Preak­ness.”

Also en­tered for the Sir Barton is the Todd Pletcher duo of stakes-placed Get­tys­burg, most re­cently fifth in the Arkansas Derby, and Done­gal Moon, most re­cently eighth in the Blue Grass.

The well-trav­eled Lady Ship­man head­lines the $100,000 The Very One Stakes for fil­lies and mares sprint­ing on turf. She won six stakes last year, in­clud­ing the Stormy Blues Stakes at Pim­lico, and was sec­ond in the Breed­ers’ Cup Turf Sprint. She comes back to Pim­lico hav­ing won two of three starts in 2016, with her only loss com­ing in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai. Lady Ship­man drew the out­side post in the field of 12.

The two other graded stakes on the Satur­day card are the Grade 3, $150,000 Gal­lorette Stakes for fil­lies and mares on turf and the Grade 3, $150,000 Mary­land Sprint Stakes. The Mary­land Sprint, which drew the short­est stakes field of the day with seven horses, is headed by Grade 1 win­ner Sa­lu­tos Ami­gos and mul­ti­ple graded stakes win­ner Cinco Char­lie.

The other stakes on the card are the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-old sprint­ers, the $100,000 James W. Mur­phy Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf, and the $100,000 Skipat Stakes for fil­lies and mares sprint­ing.

The Preak­ness an­chors a $2 mil­lion-guar­an­teed pick four and a $1 mil­lion-guar­an­teed pick five. The Preak­ness will also be the last race of a $100,000 guar­an­tee in the Rain­bow 6, which be­gins with race 8.

Other guar­an­tees in­clude a $250,000 pick five be­gin­ning with race 2, a $300,000 pick four be­gin­ning with race 3, and a $500,000 pick five be­gin­ning with race 6.

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