July 18, 2024

Never Explain surprises in course-record Dinner Party; Whitebeam breezes in Gallorette

Never Explain wins the Dinner Party Stakes (Photo by Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

The turf stakes action on Preakness Day began with a pair of graded events. While Whitebeam readily justified odds-on favoritism in the $100,000 Gallorette (G3), the 15.20-1 Never Explain crashed the $200,000 Dinner Party (G3) in course-record time at Pimlico.

Dinner Party (G3)

Courtlandt Farms’ Never Explain was overlooked on this first stakes sortie for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. The five-year-old was coming off back-to-back allowance scores at Tampa Bay Downs, but needed to find more on the class hike. Never Explain did just that, working out a textbook trip with Flavien Prat, and becoming McGaughey’s fifth Dinner Party winner.

As Atone carved out splits of :23.85, :47.40, and 1:11.23 on the firm turf, Never Explain was settled several lengths back in a ground-saving fourth. The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1) champion Street Sense angled out for the cavalry charge in the stretch.

Atone still held sway at the mile mark in 1:34.22, but the closers overtook him in the final sixteenth. Emmanuel, his nearest pursuer early, collared Atone, only to be tackled himself by Never Explain and 6-5 favorite Hurricane Dream.

Never Explain summoned the best turn of foot in the blanket finish. Forging ahead by a half-length, the dark bay reeled off 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.14. The new mark eclipsed the 1:46.34 clocked by Mr O’Brien in the 2004 edition, then named the Dixie.

Hurricane Dream never quite looked like getting there from further back, but headed Emmanuel for second. Emmanuel salvaged third by a neck from the staying-on Speaking Scout, who was the same margin up on Atone. Easter and Rising Empire concluded the order of finish.

Never Explain paid $32.40 while advancing his record to 15-5-1-2, $242,062. Bred by Hidden Brook Farm and Godolphin in Kentucky, the dark bay went to his current connections for $475,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He originally sold for $155,000 as a weanling at the firm’s November sale.

Out of the stakes-placed Forestry mare Black Oak, Never Explain hails from the extended family of Grade 1-winning millionaire Richter Scale, and further back, Hall of Famer Best Pal.

Gallorette (G3)

Whitebeam wins the Gallorette Stakes (Photo by Jeff Snyder/Maryland Jockey Club)

One race earlier in the Gallorette, Whitebeam signaled that she could be the next stateside turf star for Juddmonte. The 4-5 favorite turned what appeared to be a competitive renewal into an emphatic 2 1/2-length decision, handing trainer Chad Brown his fifth Gallorette trophy.

Whitebeam, who was stakes-placed in England last fall, just missed in her U.S. debut in the April 16 Plenty of Grace S. at Aqueduct. An early crawl foiled her that day. The tempo at Pimlico was only modest, although a bit better early before slackening, and the Caravaggio filly was able to quicken smartly.

Initially striding forward from her rail post, Whitebeam was taken in hand by Irad Ortiz Jr. to allow  longshot Traffic Song to lead. The gray was tucked behind fractions of :23.62, :48.68, and 1:12.93, full of run on hold.

The stalking Vergara made the first move turning for home, and Princess Theorem tried to lift wider out. As soon as Whitebeam was unleashed between them, though, the race was over. The British import skipped clear in 1:41.67 for 1 1/16 miles.

In her wake was a three-way photo for the minors. Sopran Basilea rallied from last to snatch runner-up honors, turning in an excellent American premiere for Graham Motion. Stablemate Bipartisanship was a neck away in third, nipping Princess Theorem, who lost two places in the final strides.

Vergara fared worst of the Motion trio in a one-paced fifth, but could improve back up in trip. Next came Traffic Song and Whitebeam’s stablemate Eminent Victor, who tapped on the brakes when trying to get through on the inside.

Whitebeam’s scorecard stands at 8-4-2-1, $121,141. Unraced at two, she was brought along steadily by co-trainers Roger and Harry Charlton as a sophomore in 2022. Whitebeam won a pair of Newbury novices and a Haydock handicap before trying listed company at Newmarket, where she missed by a head in the Sept. 23 Rosemary S. She then went off as the favorite in the Prix de Saint-Cyr at Longchamp, but heavy going was likely against her, as she wound up ninth of 11 in her European finale.

The four-year-old was produced by Sleep Walk, who is an Oasis Dream half-sister to Logician, the 2019 St Leger (G1) hero, and multiple Grade 3 victress Suffused. This is the immediate family of Group 1 winner Cityscape and multiple Group 1-placed Bated Breath.

Jim McKay Turf Sprint

Prat made it a double aboard Beer Can Man in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint. Drawn on the far outside but breaking from post 8 after scratches, the Phil D’Amato trainee chased the pace and wore down Nothing Better by a neck. His time for five furlongs, :55.56, was barely a tick off Firecrow’s course record of :55.30 established in the 2021 running.

Beer Can Man was bet down to 7-2 from an 8-1 morning line. Nothing Better was the 3.20-1 second choice, 2-1 favorite Coppola rounded out the trifecta, and the 3.70-1 Artemus Citylimits made for a logical superfecta.

Owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables, and Sterling Stables, Beer Can Man was making his second start back from a nearly 14-month layoff. The son of Can the Man was going places in this division as a sophomore, when awarded the victory in the 2021 Turf Monster (G3). He began 2022 in a similar vein with a photo-finish loss in the Joe Hernandez (G2) and a third in the San Simeon (G3) before heading to the sidelines.

His comeback fifth in an April 22 allowance at Keeneland was encouraging, and Beer Can Man moved forward here. The five-year-old gelding has compiled a record of 14-7-2-2, $514,164, including a score in the Cecil B. DeMille (G3) at two in 2020 and placings in the Eddie Logan S. and Baffle S. that winter.

James W. Murphy S.

Prat scored his third stakes victory on the day courtesy of Nagirroc, who also brought Little Red Feather and Madaket right back into the winner’s circle, with another partner in William Strauss. Flaunting his class in a course-record James W. Murphy S., the even-money favorite gave Motion a stakes win after his runners had placed in the Dinner Party and Gallorette.

Nagirroc sported the best form, albeit more often in defeat. The winner of last year’s Futurity (G3), the Lea colt subsequently collected placings in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), Eddie Logan, and the Transylvania (G3) in his April 7 reappearance. The model of consistency wasn’t beaten far, but arguably needed a bit more focus.

The blinkers went on Saturday, and a newly-concentrated Nagirroc put the race away with authority. Securing good position behind front-running Funtastic Again, he cruised up on the far turn and drew off by daylight. Funtastic Again held second from Circling the Drain, and Kingfish Stevens took fourth.

Nagirroc polished off the mile in 1:33.11, lowering the course record of 1:33.42 held by North East Bound since 2000.