New York-based trainer David Donk wasn't sure about how his horse, Pays to Dream, would perform in yesterday's $250,000 Dixie Stakes. The 3-year-old had struggled on soggy turf before, and Friday's rain had made the Pimlico surface a little soft.
What transpired over the second half of 1 1/8 -mile Grade II race surprised even Donk, when he watched his 19-1 long shot go from the middle of an eight pack to a dominant 7 1/2 -length victory.
The win, the first for the 4-year-old gelding in his past four starts and the fifth overall since starting with three straight victories, paid $40.40.
"The course is really slow," Donk said. "Usually the horses that are up on the pace have the advantage. That was impressive."
Pays to Dream used the inside rail to gain ground, then moved three paths to his right to find room to run. Once jockey Javier Castellano got the horse into the clear, the only horse to beat was favorite Shakis, who had come into the race at even money.
It was no contest. Pays to Dream easily blew by Shakis, surprising Castellano a bit.
"I knew I have to beat the No. 4 horse [Shakis]," the jockey said. "I knew I had a lot of chance, but the way he ran really, really impressed me today. It was a dream race."
Also on the undercard:
Jockey Jeremy Rose, who road Afleet Alex to victory in the Preakness three years ago, had a productive and somewhat controversial day.
Rose took Let Me Be Frank to a three-length victory in the fourth race, the inaugural Deputed Testamony Starter Handicap, and later rode 8-5 favorite Roman Emperor to a narrow win in the second running of the Barbaro Stakes in the seventh race.
Rose was also involved in two protests, both of which were disallowed.
In the sixth race, a steward's inquiry and a protest from Rose were both issued after Rose's horse, Lady Digby, was edged by Roshani and John Velazquez in the $100,000 Grade III Gallorette Handicap.
Rose said his horse was bumped coming down the stretch of 1 1/16-mile turf race. Replays showed that the horses seemed to come close together twice during the stretch run, with Lady Digby initiating the second contact.
"I moved out to the other horse, but I never interrupted her or touched her," Velazquez said later. "I just moved close."
After narrowly losing to Rose on Da'Tara in the Barbaro Stakes, Velazquez was asked about the back-to-back stretch runs against Rose.
"It happens all the time. He got one, I got one, so we're even," Velazquez said.
Meanwhile, Afleet Alex's trainer, Tim Ritchey, had a winner when Akronism, a 4-year-old filly, caught My Sister Sue at the finish line to win the $75,000 Skipat Stakes for fillies and mares.
While Rose has certainly had bigger moments in racing than his win on Let Me Be Frank, the horse's owner considered it a career highlight.
The victory was meaningful for Mark Lapidus, who grew up a couple of blocks from Pimlico.
"I've run races here, but this is a special day," said Lapidus, who now lives in Owings Mills.