December 5, 2023

Cox barn has serious claims in several Preakness Day grass stakes

Set Piece wins the 2021 Wise Dan Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

A quartet of grass stakes are among the highlights on Saturday’s Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico. In the $250,000 Dinner Party S. (G2), formerly the Dixie, Set Piece will look to earn his first graded victory since last summer, when he captured the Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs.

A Juddmonte Farms homebred, Set Piece returned from a lengthy absence in the April 15 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland. He finished seventh, but was only beaten two lengths.

“He didn’t fare very well last time, probably a little close to the pace at Keeneland,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He just wasn’t quite up to the Grade 1 caliber and didn’t have the greatest trip last time.”

Atone finished one length ahead of Set Piece in the Maker’s Mark Mile in a fourth-place effort. Trained by Mike Maker, the Into Mischief gelding seeks his first career stakes win following several other solid performance of late.

“He was a good fourth in the Pegasus (World Cup) Turf (G1) and the Maker’s Mark Mile, so hopefully some class relief will be what the doctor ordered,” Maker said. “He shows up every time. No complaints. He’s kept the best company and held his own.”

Novo Sol cuts back in distance following a third-place effort to Gufo in the 12-furlong Pan American (G2), while Beacon Hill and Tango Tango Tango each have positive experience in stakes company.

The $150,000 Gallorette H. (G3) for fillies and mares, like the Dinner Party, will be contested at 1 1/16 miles. Expected to lead the market in the field of seven are the Chad Brown-trained Technical Analysis, who won the Lake Placid (G2) and Lake George (G3) at Saratoga last summer, and the Graham Motion-trained Crystal Cliffs, who exits a dominating win in the Sand Springs S. at Gulfstream.

The $100,000 James W. Murphy S., for three-year-olds at one mile, marks the return to action of Ready to Purrform, who captured the Laurel Futurity last fall for Cox. Making rare appearances on the grass are Joe, recent winner of the Federico Tesio S., and Shake Em Loose, who defeated Joe in the Private Terms S. two back and had been under consideration for the Preakness (G1) until last weekend.

The $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at five furlongs, which immediately precedes the Preakness, includes the 2020 winner Hollis, multiple stakes winner Carotari, and Seven Scents, a recent Keeneland allowance winner in his first start off the claim by Cox.