Dr. Brendler, the longest shot in the field, responded to a strong ride from Ramon Dominguez and upset five others in the Grade II, $200,000 Dixie Handicap on the Preakness undercard yesterday.
Over a turf course rated soft, the H. Graham Motion trainee finished 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 57.78 seconds and won by a half length over stubborn runner-up Perfect Soul.
"He loves the soft ground and the cool weather," Motion said. "I wanted to take a shot because he had been training well. He is a classy underachiever who runs well when running back quickly."
Brendler is 5-for-26 lifetime after nearly doubling his lifetime earnings to $274,617.
Dominguez said he didn't realize the pace was slow, but he asked his horse for more pace after a half mile, and Brendler responded. "He picked it up nicely and we were able to get up," said the jockey.
Brendler returned $39.40 to win and set up an exacta of $127.80 and a trifecta of $947.20.
A Prado-McPeek repeat
The team of jockey Edgar Prado and trainer Ken McPeek struck again in the $125,000 Sir Barton Stakes, the 3-year-old feature that usually draws horses not quite of Preakness caliber.
After winning the race last year with Sarava (who went on to capture the Belmont Stakes at 70-1 odds), Prado drove Best Minister to a solid three-length triumph over a track rated good yesterday.
Prado showed his knowledge of Pimlico Race Course with a well-judged ride on a colt that broke his maiden less than a month ago at Keeneland.
"I just wanted to sit behind and bide my time," said Prado. "As far as the Belmont goes, you never know until the very end."
Carib Lady picked her way through traffic and survived a stretch charge from Affirmed Dancer to win the Grade III, $100,000 Gallorette Handicap, the first turf event of the day on a soft surface.
The horse's winning margin after 1 1/16 miles was a neck for jockey Pat Valenzuela, who was replaced by Jerry Bailey on Ten Cents A Shine for the Preakness.
"It's unfortunate that I had to be put in a spot where I don't get to ride in the Preakness," said Valenzuela, who wished Ten Cents A Shine's connections the best before the dark bay's ninth-place finish. "And I've been here before and I've won it before and I know the feeling of what it's like to ride in it and win it. I'll get another chance one day."
Seven were scratched from the Gallorette's 52nd running.
No scaling Mt. Carson
Rated adroitly by Dominguez, Mt. Carson pulled away from Gators N Bears through the lane for a 2 1/4 -length score in the $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes for 3-year-olds.
The Rodney Jenkins trainee benefited from a speed battle between Love Crazed and Only The Best, bided his time and struck with the last of six furlongs to go.
Jenkins said Mt. Carson returned sharply from a rest and also "won a 100K [$100,000 race] at Delaware Park in the mud."
`Gang' shifts into overdrive
Long shot Gang rallied from last in a five-horse field and took the $125,000 Woodlawn Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile test shifted from the turf to the main track.
Seven horses were scratched after the race was moved to what was a good track (upgraded from sloppy to muddy earlier) by the fifth race on the program.
Gang edged Sigint, another outsider, by a nose in only his second stakes race. The gelding was fifth in the Tesio Stakes on April 19.
"When the track came up muddy, I knew we had a good chance," said trainer Randy Allen. "We wanted the turf, but I'll take what we got. Next time we're going to try the grass to see if he gets any better."
Owner Michael Gill took the 17th running of the Grade III, $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup seriously, sending a three-horse entry onto a muddy track.
Pioneer Boy was the most dominant, scoring a front-running victory while Tasty Caberneigh and Highway Prospector, the other Gill horses, finished in a dead heat for third. Sassy Hound was second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
In the saddling area, Pioneer Boy was unruly.
"He was all upset in the paddock and that's what made him mad," said trainer Jerry Robb. "I had to wrestle with him out in the mud just to get the tack on him. Then he broke flat-footed and was still able to win. Maybe that's the key. He gets scared and that's what makes him run so fast."
Before guiding Funny Cide to victory in the Preakness, Jose Santos steered Windsor Castle to a 1 3/4 -length triumph in the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap.
Jack Sadler, vice president of Dogwood Stable, which owns the winner, said he wanted to bring Windsor Castle to the Preakness three years ago, but physical problems prevented it.
"We finally made it here and we are certainly glad," Sadler said.
No fear in Gotham
Even though Funny Cide won by a decisive margin, silencing more of the skeptics, Neil Howard said he doesn't think it will scare off any potential Belmont contenders.
"No," the trainer of Midway Road said. "It's a different race up there."
That's not to say Howard wasn't impressed.