A potent entry of Sharp Appeal and Claudius is likely to be the bettors' choice in today's $200,000 Dixie Stakes, which has been run since 1870, three years before the first Preakness.
The Grade II Dixie -- at 1 1/8 miles on the grass -- is the highlight of five companion stakes to the 122nd Preakness.
Sharp Appeal comes into the race with five straight victories, including two graded events in his past two starts. Trainer Marty Wolfson claimed the colt for $50,000 as a 2-year-old and he has won nearly $300,000 this season.
The other half of the entry, Claudius, is a closer who would benefit from a quick pace up front. He was claimed for $80,000 in March and was a multiple stakes winner as a 3-year-old.
Five females will go in the $200,000 Pimlico Distaff, a Grade III race at 1 1/8 miles. Churchbell Chimes, who finished third to Serena's Song in the 1996 race, and Rare Blend, a two-time graded stakes winner in Florida this winter, figure as the choices.
MATCH lights it up
The Preakness undercard will include three races in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) series, including two that launch divisions.
The Grade III, $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap starts action for older sprinters on the main track with Appealing Skier expected to be the favorite.
He is a multiple graded-stakes winner who beat Unbridled's Song in the Hutcheson Stakes last year.
The $125,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap at 1 1/8 miles opens the older horses division on dirt with Big Rut taking a four-race winning streak to the post against Nick Zito-trained Suave Prospect.
And, the $75,000 Sir Barton Stakes marks the second race for 3-year-olds going long and will be televised live by ABC-TV as part of its Preakness coverage.
Preakness eve was a light day for the big-race horses, most of whom only galloped.
Hoxie and Jack At The Bank, Robert Perez' 50-1 entry, got their first taste of Pimlico, jogging and then galloping three furlongs.
Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm went 1 1/2 miles at Pimlico before trainer Bob Baffert quipped at the Alibi Breakfast: "He's lucky. He didn't have to go out and party after the Derby like we did. He's great, but I'm exhausted."
Runner-up Captain Bodgit again was labeled "a wild man" by trainer Gary Capuano and third-place finisher Free House's connections let jockey Kent Desormeaux do the talking.
"There's a lot of speed in here. I can see where the first eighth of a mile could determine the outcome," said Desormeaux, who made his name in Maryland.
Cryp Too will set pace
Trainer Allen Borosh said he has always been concerned about honesty in racing, so he brought Cryp Too to insure a good pace.
"The Derby got off to a dishonest pace, so I came to Baltimore to keep this race honest," he said.
Coughing for attention
Bob Durso, trainer of Frisk Me Now, joked that he knew his colt would get some attention if he told everybody that the horse coughed Tuesday morning, and "sure enough we were on the front page of the Racing Form the next day."
Durso postponed a Tuesday workout until Wednesday.
Bodgit early favorite
Captain Bodgit was an 8-to-5 favorite in the Preakness and Free House was listed at 9-to-5 when advance betting closed yesterday at Pimlico.
Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm and Touch Gold were 6-1, followed by Concerto, 7-1; Frisk Me Now, 23-1; Cryp Too, 30-1; the entry of Jack At The Bank and Hoxie, 50-1; and Wild Tempest, 60-1.
Pub Date: 5/17/97