Blinkers help Takeover hit Target in Dixie

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May 21st, 2016

Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Takeover Target stormed out wide and late to deny Ring Weekend a comeback victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Dixie (G2), the race prior to the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico.

The Dixie’s 13 entrants were whittled down to eight after the scratches of Force the Pass, Golden Sabre, Cage Fighter, and the Bill Mott duo of Long on Value and Take the Stand.

Successful in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) and Hill Prince (G3) last year in the 3-year-old turf division, Takeover Target had a tougher time versus his elders so far this season. That wasn’t altogether his fault, since the Chad Brown trainee was compromised by his trips in the January 9 Ft Lauderdale (G2) (checked in traffic midstretch) and February 6 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) (parked out wide). Back up at Aqueduct for the April 10 Danger’s Hour, he rallied for a non-threatening second to Macagone.

Takeover Target may have needed a bit of a spark by this point, and Brown applied blinkers for the Dixie. The talented Harlan’s Holiday colt got the rain-affected ground he copes with so well too, but I doubt we’d have seen the same relentless drive without the headgear.

It should be noted that Takeover Target also got a late rider switch to Joel Rosario. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. was originally listed, but he stayed at Belmont Saturday. Florent Geroux was then reported to have picked up the mount, but he lost it once Rosario became available, thanks to the scratch of Force the Pass.

El Kabeir flashed speed in his turf debut and carved out fractions of :23.94, :48.56, and 1:12.94 on the good course. Grand Arch, the 2-1 favorite, tracked throughout, and Ring Weekend, sidelined since his coup in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) 14 months ago, traveled well with the leaders in his sights.

When Grand Arch threw down the gauntlet turning for home, Ring Weekend followed him on the outside, the stage was set for a stretch-long tussle. Ring Weekend appeared to have the upper hand, and finally wore down Grand Arch.

Meanwhile, Takeover Target, last early and bumped on the far turn, was rapidly organizing himself wider out on the course. Ring Weekend had run a mighty enough race off the layoff as it was, and he had given his all to get past Grand Arch. He understandably could not counter a new threat. Erupting with a powerful charge, Takeover Target caught him by a neck and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.76.

Grand Arch, last seen finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), was another half-length away in third. The type who blossoms over summer and fall, this was a fine return for Grand Arch as well. Captain Dixie, Conquest Typhoon, Prince Gagarin, El Kabeir, and Za Approval rounded out the order under the wire.

Bred by Dorothy Matz in Kentucky and sold for $175,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Takeover Target has now bankrolled $795,935 from his 11-5-2-0 record. The bay was produced by the winning Vanquished, an Empire Maker half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Critical Eye.

Quotes courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club

Dermot Megner, Assistant to Winning Trainer Chad Brown (Takeover Target): “It was a great performance and a great ride and a great stretch run. We’re really proud of him.”

Winning Jockey Joel Rosario (Takeover Target): “We got a good start and we had a good position. The horse in front of me started to stop and I had to take hold because there was another horse coming up outside of me. He got right back in stride though. He is always close and I knew that he would be today. The turf is fine, just wet from the rain. He had a pretty good trip.”                 

Trainer Graham Motion (Ring Weekend, 2nd): “He ran great. He just was a little keen and got bumped going into the first turn, which didn’t help him. I couldn’t be happier.

“He had a foot abscess. It’s pretty cool to see him come back like this. He’s had a tough road.”

Jockey John Velazquez (Ring Weekend, 2nd): “He ran a great race. He had a long time off.”

Jockey Luis Saez (Grand Arch, 3rd): “He had no excuses. We had a fine trip.”

Photo courtesy Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club