Shug MCGAUGHEY SEEKING FIFTH DINNER PARTY WIN
Already a four-time winner of the race, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will go after No. 5 with Maryland-loving multiple graded-stakes winner Doctor Mounty in the $250,000 Dinner Party (G2) Saturday, Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.
The 119th running of the Dinner Party for 3-year-olds and up on the grass is part of a Preakness Day program of 12 stakes races, seven graded, worth $2.7 million in purses featuring the $1 million Preakness (G1) for 3-year-olds and $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.
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Previously run as the Dixie, Pimlico’s oldest stakes race and the eighth-oldest in the country was named the Dinner Party for its 1870 debut and contested at two miles. The distance has changed eight times over its history, settling at the current 1 1/16 miles in 2014.
Larry Pratt and Dave Alden’s Doctor Mounty snapped a five-race losing streak when he returned from a brief freshening with a front-running 1 ¾-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Henry S. Clark Sept. 7 at Laurel Park. It was his first victory since his previous trip to Maryland, when the now 7-year-old gelding rallied to win the Prince George’s County by a length last June.
The Clark was Doctor Mounty’s sixth win from nine lifetime tries at Laurel, including the 2018 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3). Based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., where he breezed a half-mile in a bullet 47.40 seconds Sept. 26, Doctor Mounty has yet to race at Pimlico.
“He’s doing fine. He’s been there at Fair Hill and he’s trained well there, so we’ll take a shot,” McGaughey said. “He likes Laurel, so [the Clark was] a good spot to try and start him back again.”
In the Clark, Doctor Mounty was reunited with jockey Forest Boyce, who has ridden him to five of his Laurel wins including all three stakes. She and the 2019 Tropical Turf (G3) winner will team up again from Post 6 in a field of seven for the Dinner Party.
McGaughey’s previous wins came with Hall of Famer Lure (1993), Parading (2009), Ironicus (2015) and Fire Away (2018), when it was rained onto the main track.
“Forest rides him really well, so I think that’s one of the things that’s helped, too,” McGaughey said. “He’s made more than a half-million dollars, he’s won some stakes and won some graded-stakes. He’s been off and on a little bit but we gave him a little time this summer. We thought about taking him to Colonial [Downs] but when that fell through [the Clark] was the next logical spot, [and] here we are.”
Trainer Graham Motion, who won with Dr. Brendler in 2003 and Better Talk Now in 2006 and was third the past two years with Just Howard, counters with the pair of True Valour and Irish Strait. R. Larry Johnson purchased Irish-bred True Valour over the summer and the 6-year-old debuted for his new connections Sept. 5 in the 1 1/8-mile Turf Classic (G1), pressing the pace before fading to seventh.
True Valour has gone winless in seven tries since taking the City of Hope Mile (G2) last October, his first start in eight months after winning the Thunder Road (G3), both at Santa Anita. Winner of the 2018 Ballycorus (G3) at Leopardstown in Ireland, he will be ridden by Julian Pimentel from Post 1.
“I think the mile and an eighth in Kentucky was a little far for him. I think shortening up to a mile and a sixteenth is going to help him,” Motion said. “He’s pretty straightforward; I just think distance is going to be a bit limited for him. Last time was just a bit too far.”
Isabelle Haskell de Tomaso’s homebred Irish Strait is a half-brother to Irish War Cry, millionaire winner of the 2018 Pimlico Special (G3). Irish Strait earned his own graded triumph in the 2017 Red Bank (G3) and has run second or third four times since in graded company.
After more than a year between races, Irish Strait has started twice this year with a third in the 1 1/16-mile Oceanport Aug. 9 and a fourth to Analyze It in the one-mile Red Bank Sept. 5, both at Monmouth under jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. Trevor McCarthy will be aboard for the Dinner Party from Post 5.
“He’s run twice this year and run pretty well. Just looking over his form, he almost never gets beaten more than four lengths. Since last January he’s just been very consistent,” Motion said. “He’s 8 now so at some point in time it’s going to catch up to him, but I thought in the Red Bank [trainer] Chad [Brown] won it with a filly coming off a long layoff with a pretty nice horse, a Grade 1 type horse. Jorge felt like he made a mistake by taking back little bit, and he was only beaten 4 ¼ lengths.”
Also in with a pair of horses is trainer Mike Maker, Somelikeithotbrown and Hembree, who will break side-by-side from Post 2 and 3, respectively, under Paco Lopez and Daniel Centeno. Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Somelikeithotbrown, 4, captured the Bernard Baruch (G2) July 26 at Saratoga for his second career graded triumph, while Three Diamonds Farm’s Hembree won the 2018 Nearctic (G2). The 6-year-old hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since the 2019 El Prado but placed six times in 13 tries, all stakes.
Gaining Ground Racing’s Factor This, beaten less than a length after setting the pace in the Turf Classic, cuts back to a distance where the 5-year-old owns four wins from seven starts, the most recent coming in the June 20 Wise Dan (G2) for trainer Brad Cox. It was part of a three-race streak interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic following victories in the Muniz Memorial Classic (G3) and Fair Grounds (G3). An 11-time winner of nearly $1.1 million in purse earnings, Factor This drew outside Post 7 with Florent Groux.
Rounding out the field is O Dionysus, a stakes winner on turf and dirt for previous trainer Gary Capuano making his third start since being purchased by Irvin S. Naylor for $135,000 last December. The 6-year-old gelding has won stakes in each of his first four racing seasons but is 0-for-2 in 2020, finishing off the board in the United Nations (G1) and Henry Clark. This will be his third straight year in the race, running fourth in 2018 and fifth in 2019.