One race before trainer Graham Motion saddles Went the Day Well in the May 19 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winning conditioner will send out Augustin Stable's homebred Smart Bid, the 7-2 overnight favorite in the Dixie Stakes.
First run in 1870 as the Dinner Party Stakes and won by the horse Preakness, the 2012 Dixie has drawn a full field of 11 runners. The $300,000 contest, which is the 11th race on the Preakness undercard, is slated for 5:18 p.m. EDT.
Both Motion and jockey Edgar Prado, who is scheduled to ride Smart Bid, have previously won the Dixie. Motion scored in the race twice (Dr. Brendler, 2003; Better Talk Now, 2006) and Prado once (Ops Smile, 1997).
Motion said he had been pointing Smart Bid toward the Dixie for quite some time.
"He's doing well," Motion said of Smart Bid, who has run exclusively on turf the last two years. "He's a pretty straightforward horse."
Smart Bid has three lifetime victories and five runner-up finishes on grass and prefers coming from slightly off the pace. Prado has been aboard the 6-year-old son of Smart Strike in his last 10 starts. The pair will break from post 7 in the Dixie.
Bred in Pennsylvania, Smart Bid is out of the Danzig mare Recording.
Another duo with previous success in the Dixie, jockey Ramon Dominguez and trainer Alan Goldberg, are on board with Richard Santulli's Straight Story (10-1), who is coming off a win in the Autumn Stakes on Woodbine's Polytrack and is 6-for-19 on the grass.
Dominguez has been the dominant jockey in the Dixie of late, taking five of the last nine runnings. He teamed with Goldberg to prevail two years ago with Strike a Deal and with Motion on his two triumphs.
Straight Story, a 6-year-old son of Giant's Causeway -- Eventual, by Lear Fan, was bred in New York by Gallagher's Stud. He was a $400,000 purchase at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Also figuring to be in the thick of the battle are the Todd Pletcher-trained Hudson Steele (9-2), a horse who won the Henry S. Clark Stakes over the Pimlico strip last month, and Casino Host (5-1), who is on a two-race winning streak with the latest score being a grade II victory on the Fair Grounds course.
Air Support (6-1) took the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs last summer and Trend (6-1) has an impressive turf record as well (two wins and eight seconds in 12 starts).
"This field is tougher than I thought it would be," said Ignacio Correas, trainer of Sagamore Farm's Humble and Hungry, a 12-1 longshot in this lineup who finished fourth behind Hudson Steele in the Henry Clark April 28. "It's going to be a good one for the fans to watch."