The heartbreak at Pimlico Race Course continued yesterday for the popular turfer Artie Schiller in the Grade II, $250,000 Dixie Stakes, the track's oldest stakes race.
After losing by a nose to long shot Cool Conductor last year, Artie Schiller was unable to fend off the closing rushes of Better Talk Now and Dreadnaught and finished third in the 2006 running.
Better Talk Now split the other two in the final sixteenth of a mile to edge Dreadnaught by a head in the 105th running, with Artie Schiller, who has finished lower than third only once in a 21-race career, next by another head.
Stablemate Shake the Bank, the other half of a Graham Motion-trained entry, set reasonable early fractions to set it up for Better Talk Now, who was returning from a six-month layoff after competing in the Japan Cup.
"Tommy [Turner, on Shake the Bank] did a great job," Motion said. "He stumbled out of the gate. What a job he did to compensate. They both ran great races. Better Talk Now is so honest. It amazes me that he went off at 7-2. This isn't his distance, don't forget."
"He certainly ran a huge race, especially off the layoff," said winning rider Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard his third winner of the day. "He was feeling excellent, relaxed and ready to go. He split horses very gamely. There wasn't a whole lot of room, and he was pretty game getting in there."
Better Talk Now is based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County. He won two Grade I races last year and the Breeders' Cup Turf in 2004. He has earned nearly $2.8 million in a 33-race career.
Funny Cide returned to the site of his smashing 2003 Preakness triumph and finished third in the Grade III, $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap.
A horse bothered by back problems recently, Funny Cide's jockey, Richard Migliore, tried to save ground with him on the backstretch, but he couldn't cope with Master Command, the winner, and Andromeda's Hero through the lane and finished third.
"I tucked him in and he got really strong inside of horses," Migliore said. "He pulled me up in behind them and I didn't have a place to go down the backstretch when he had a lot of run. I think he got a little discouraged."
Master Command gave Garrett Gomez and trainer Todd Pletcher three stakes victories by outfighting Andromeda's Hero, who took the lead at one point on the final turn. Master Command won by 2 3/4 lengths.
Friendly Island emerged from a highly contested Grade III, $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap with a hard-earned victory by three-quarters of a length over long shot Celtic Innis.
The win was the second straight on the card for the team of Pletcher and Gomez.
Third-place finisher Gaff had a troubled trip and was steadied twice.
It was Amen for potential Preakness starter Ah Day in the $100,000 Sir Barton, as High Cotton took the lead and fought off the opposition for a 5 1/2 -length triumph. Ah Day was never a factor and finished fifth.
Ultimate Goal, a fellow Pletcher trainee, gave High Cotton a brief challenge after six furlongs before the victor pulled away to take the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds in 1:42.95.
French-bred Ozone Bere came charging up the rail in her first United States appearance and nudged Humoristic by a head in the Grade III, $100,000 Gallorette Handicap on the grass.
"This filly did everything perfect," said winning rider Javier Castellano. "She waited until just the right moment to move along the rail. She was calm and relaxed."
The 3-to-5 choice, Songster, had everything his way in the Grade III, $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes, rolling away to a 10-length victory under Edgar Prado.
"He broke running out of the gate and it was all over," said Prado, whose horse covered six furlongs in 1:09.72. "He came back like he didn't even run."
My Lord rallied from next to last under local apprentice sensation Rosie Napravnik to capture the $100,000 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint by three-quarters of a length over Southern Missile.
"It really feels terrific winning on Preakness Day," Napravnik said. "My whole family is here."
Dominguez controlled all the pace from the inside and steered favored Off the Glass to an easy victory in the $50,000 Murmur Farm Starter Handicap for Maryland Million nominees. firstname.lastname@example.org