Giving the jockey/trainer duo of Ricardo Santana and Steve Asmussen their fifth win of the Preakness Stakes weekend, Woodford Racing's Switzerland followed a similar pattern in laying just off the pace and striding clear in the lane to win the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint by 3 1/2 lengths. The 4-year-old son of Speightstown covered six furlongs over Pimlico's sloppy main track in 1:09.43, earning his first graded stakes victory in the process. Off at odds of 5-2, Switzerland earned 10 points in the 3-Year-Old & Up Sprint – Dirt Division of the MATCH series; the next race in the series is the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth on June 17.
“The progression through his conditions and then the timing from the last day at Oaklawn to today was just ideal,” said Asmussen. “He'd moved to Churchill with the barn and was training well. We were excited about this opportunity. I think with a win in a race like this, we will regroup and see what's out there for older sprint horses and take a big swing.”
Red Dragon Tattoo was quick out of the gate to take a short lead over Switzerland down the backstretch, clicking off fractions of :22.94 and :45.69. Those two were tracked by Long Haul Bay and Lewisfield.
Rounding the far turn, Red Dragon Tattoo spit the bit and dropped back quickly, allowing Switzerland to inherit the lead. Favored Long Haul Bay tried to keep pace with the leader down the lane but was unable to, and Switzerland finished 3 1/2 lengths clear. Long Haul Bay held second over Lewisfield, and Irish Colonel got up for fourth.
New York-based Long Haul Bay collected 7 points, followed by Maryland-bred Lewisfield with 5. It was rounded out by Irish Colonel (3), Heartwood (2), and Laki, Fellowship, Sonny Inspired and Red Dragon Tattoo each with 1 point. There were no scratches from the Maryland Sprint despite the sloppy track.
Irish Colonel, trained by Laurel Park-based Cathal Lynch, is owned by Wire To Wire Stable and Sal DeBunda's Dun Roamin Farm. DeBunda, President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said he hopes to Irish Colonel continues in the MATCH Series.
“That's what we're here for,” he said.
Bred in Kentucky by the Branch Family Trust, Switzerland was a $500,000 2-year-old purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale. It took eight starts to break his maiden with trainer Chad Brown, but the horse has not lost since his transfer to Asmussen, making the Maryland Sprint his first graded victory. From 11 lifetime starts, Switzerland has four wins, two seconds and three thirds for earnings of $270,000.
“Steve told me the first time that he believed in the horse, and when he says that I always believe what he says,” Santana added. “He's an amazing trainer.”
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