Varsity kicked off the 2012 Preakness with a win in a five-furlong run on Pimlico’s turf. He entered the race as the favorite at 7-5.
Agnostic, ridden by Maryland’s 2011 top jockey Sheldon Russell, finished second, while Night Office took third.
Race 2: Deputed Testamony Stakes
Bailey’s Beach edged Strangerinthenight and Albrecht to win the second race of the day, a 1 1/16 mile ride on the dirt track.
Bailey’s Beach, like Varsity in Race 1, entered as a 7-5 favorite. Russell, aboard the runner-up, finished in the money for the second time today. Javier Santiago, riding the winner, said he didn’t want the horse to flatten out if he got in front too early.
“Our jockey understood the slow pace and he took him off of it to conserve his energy,” trainer Hugh McMahon said. “With the slow pace, he had plenty left.”
Race 3: Gallorette Stakes
Zagora closed strong down the stretch to win the $150,000 Gallorette Stakes in Pimlico’s third race of Preakness Day.
Speak Easy finished second, busting out of the gate to take command for most of the race before Zagora, the even-money favorite, closed.
“Once she gets settled and gathers herself together, she really has a strong kick. Javier’s a top rider and when he’s on my horses, I’m a lot less nervous. Nine times out of 10 he finds a way."
Heavy favorite Paynter outlasted Brimstone Island and Respectful Ed to take the $50,000 purse in the fourth race.
He paid just $2.20 as a winner, and the three horses with the highest odds finished in the top three positions.
Paynter is trained by Bob Baffert, who will saddle Preakness favorite Bodemeister later today.
The favorites continued to roll as Wire Funds, who held 9-2 odds, defeated 7-2 favorite Coach Fridge in Pimlico’s fifth race.
Wire Funds paid $8.20 to win, and the runner-up paid $4.80 to place.
Coach Fridge is trained by Hamilton Smith, a Laurel-based trainer who had his first horse run in a Triple Crown race two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby -- Done Talking -- after training for more than 30 years.
Race 6: Chick Lang Stakes
Il Villano surrendered his lead but overcame even-money favorite Innocent Man at the top of the stretch in the six-furlong, $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes. He beat runner-up Laurie’s Rocket by more than four lengths.
“I saw that they were going pretty fast, and he sat exactly where I wanted him to,” Il Villano’s trainer, Susan Crowell, said. “He made his one run on the turn for home, and we were very impressed the way he ran today.”
It was Innocent Man's first time in a stakes race. Trainer Patrick Biancone was pleased with the overall effort, considering his horse, while the favorite, was the most inexperienced of the group.
“He stumbled at the start, but they need to learn,” he said. “I'm very happy with him.”
Clare Skies Ahead took home first place in the 1 1/16-mile run on the turf for 3-year-olds and older.
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Russell continued his strong day, finishing as the runner-up aboard Happy Choice. Dixie Dead, ridden by Julien Leparoux, finished in third. The winner paid out $11.
Race 8, Maryland Sprint Handicap
Hamazing Destiny captured his first race in nearly two years under legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas in the $100,000 race.
“He was the favorite and he ran like it,” Lukas said.
Race 9, James Murphy Stakes
Lukas found more success in this $100,000 race as Skyring earned his second victory in as many stakes races.
He bested Easy Crossing by a neck on his first race on turf and paid $19.60. Mr. Handsome finished third, just a nose behind Easy Crossing.
“Turf horses usually have a lot of trouble going wire to wire. It's usually a closer, somebody on the outside blowing by them,” Lukas said. “If you're a trainer, you're not always happy to see your horse cruising on the lead, no matter how easy it is.”
Joel Rosario, the winning jockey, was pleased with the way he rode today and the effort the horse gave.
“The boss told me, he tries hard and never gives up,” Rosario said. “He was certainly right.”
Race 10, Allaire Dupont Distaff Stakes
Although she fell behind early, Baffert’s filly Awesomemundo closed strong to take the $100,000 race.
“We had a little trouble leaving, but she proved she’s very talented,” jockey Mike Smith said. “She has a beautiful long kick.”
Awesomemundo edged Love and Pride by a neck to win, paying $4.80, and Catch a Thief finished third.
“She fought hard. I thought she might have taken a little bump from the winner and knocked off stride,” said Love and Pride’s trainer, Todd Pletcher. “You hate to lose by a nose, but she ran well.”
Hudson Steele outran underdog Humble and Hungry in the last race before the Preakness. The winner paid $8.20.
Forte Dei Marmi, ridden by Smith, came in third in the 1 1/8-mile stakes race on Pimlico’s turf.
After I’ll Have Another’s dramatic come-from-behind win in the Preakness, trainer Doug O’Neill still had another victory in store. O’Neill’s Unex Dali galloped to a victory in a 1 1/16-mile race on turf.
He paid $4.20, finishing ahead of Sharp Numbers and Whata Soandso. A Maiden Special Weight race, it marked Unex Dali’s first career win.