Javier Castellano has been having a good weekend at Pimlico. After several stakes races on Friday and Saturday, the jockey guided Ironicus to a late-charging victory in the Grade 2, $300,000 Longines Dixie Stakes Saturday afternoon, the race directly preceding the 140th Preakness Stakes.
“This race set up perfectly for us,” Castellano said. “In his last race the leader just galloped and he made a run but didn't have a chance to win. The turf was also softer that day. He likes a little harder track and with today's fast pace, it was exactly what we needed. I think he may be able to step up.”
Owned by Stuart S. Janney III, the 4-year-old Ironicus was making his stakes debut in the Dixie for trainer Shug McGaughey. He has three wins in eight lifetime starts.
“We've always held him in high regard,” said Robbie Medina, assistant to McGaughey. “He had a little injury last year, so we had to wait to run him until October. He's been very unlucky and should have already won at Aqueduct and Keeneland. He just trains and looks like a good horse, and I don't think this is his optimal distance. He wants more. I think a mile and an eighth or a mile and a quarter is right for him.”
Skyring, wire-to-wire winner of the Dixie in 2013, set the early pace again, leading the field through moderate fractions on the Pimlico turf course. They hit the top of the stretch and a wall of horses was in position to take the lead, with Ironicus coming home best by 2 3/4 lengths over Cage Fighter and Up With the Birds. Favored Long on Value finished fourth.
Final time for the mile and a sixteenth Dixie was 1:40.53.
Ironicus, a homebred for Janney, is by Distorted Humor out of the A.P. Indy mare Meghan's Joy.
Longines Dixie quotes:
Owner Matt Schera (Cage Fighter, 2nd): “He ran so well. He won the allowance here so we knew he liked the turf here. We scratched out of a Belmont allowance because this wasn't that much tougher. We took a shot. He got a great trip and ran really well.
Jockey Joe Bravo (Cage Fighter, 2nd): “You've got to love this horse. He always hits the board. I'm sorry we lost, but he ran great and hats off to the winners.”
Trainer Graham Motion (Up With the Birds, 3rd): “I'm very pleased, very pleased. He was just so wide – that hurt him. But I love the way Drayden (Van Dyke) rode him. It was a really honest performance from a tough post. I'm thrilled with how he ran.”
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke (Up With the Birds, 3rd): “My horse likes to make one run. With 14 horses, it's hard to get in that position. We were two, three wide the whole race and had to go six, seven wide to make a great run at the finish.
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