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Serena's Song, Mecke lead the stars on the undercard '95 Black-Eyed Susan titlist goes in Pimlico Distaff

Eclipse Award winner Serena's Song, the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes champion last year, and Mecke, the favorite in the Grade II $200,000 Early Times Dixie, headline a star-studded field on today's Preakness undercard.

Serena's Song has drawn only four rivals to test her in the first big race of the afternoon (fourth on the card), the Grade III $200,000 Pimlico Distaff at 1 1/8 miles.

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Despite a three-race losing streak, she figures to be a short-priced choice for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, particularly after her easy victory in the 1995 Black-Eyed Susan over the same Pimlico track.

The pattern is nearly the same. Last year, she was coming off a trouncing in the Kentucky Derby; this time, she is fresh from another defeat at Churchill Downs -- by a neck in the Louisville Breeders' Cup.

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Top-weighted at 123 pounds, Serena's Song will be trying to increase her $2.4 million in earnings with Gary Stevens aboard.

The Early Times Dixie -- the turf race preceding the Preakness -- should be a more competitive event, with Mecke, who has won $1.5 million, the slight favorite.

Mecke is coming back from a big score in the Grade I Early Times Turf on the Kentucky Derby program. He came from last to first to prevail by a head under Pat Day.

But he may face a serious challenge from the front-running Warning Glance, who is back in trainer Charlie Hadry's Laurel barn after campaigning on loan for Shug McGaughey in Florida and New York this winter.

Mecke is a versatile horse equally at home on dirt and grass, which may give him a big advantage if the race is shifted to the main track because of weather.

Hadry said of Warning Glance's winter activity: "He hadn't had that many races last year, and he was doing so well, it made sense to keep him going."

Warning Glance has won 10 of 26 in his career, usually going wire-to-wire. He will have his regular Maryland rider, Edgar Prado, in the irons.

The other stakes on the card include the Grade III $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup, the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap and the $50,000-added Sir Barton Stakes.

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Ten well-matched sprinters will vie in the Breeders' Cup, with Forty Won, Jerry Bailey up, and Demaloot Demashoot, sporting Shane Sellers, co-high-weighted at 115.

In the Schaefer, at 1 1/8 miles, the Meyerhoff entry of Sunny Sunrise and Western Echo will be extremely tough to beat.

The Sir Barton is for 3-year-olds not quite up to Preakness caliber, and trainer Nick Zito has decided to run Saratoga Dandy in this race instead of the big one.

Last practice

Yesterday was a time for simple jogging and galloping for the Preakness field.

Nine of the horses underwent their final preparations on the Pimlico oval, and Cavonnier, the early favorite, schooled in the paddock.

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Mixed Count, stabled at Laurel Park, jogged on his home track, and Allied Forces jogged a mile at Belmont Park before leaving for Baltimore yesterday morning.

Give me bouffant in the first


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