Factor This
Factor This was much the best in the Dinner Party Stakes. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Factor This used high knee action out of the starting gate to gain the lead and never relented in the Grade 2 $250,000 Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday. The Dinner Party, renamed from the Dixie Stakes, is a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf for three-year olds and up.

“As long as he gets the lead and is allowed to relax out there, I think that’s the key for his races,” explained Ricky Giannini, assistant to Trainer Brad Cox. “About 48-and-change [seconds for the half-mile] is his ballpark. Anything more than that is even better. Softer fractions helped him a lot.”

Floreux Geroux, taking the reins over from Shaun Bridgemohan for the first time, set one of the quicker opening quarters of the day over the yielding ground after using most of the first straightaway to chisel himself to the lead and the rail. Somelikeithobrown with Paco Lopez was a bit rank approaching the turn and ceded the rail to Factor This, who set the first quarter in 24.20.

Irish Strait with Trevor McCarthy aboard, entered into contention up the backstretch as Geroux maintained a steady pace for a 48.74-second half but could never move within a half length until conceding the challenge back to Somelikeithotbrown. Lopez attempted to run even with Geroux’s pace, moving as close as a length-and-a-half in midstretch, but never improved on the margin after that.

“He’s a very nice horse. It was a big class relief for the horse. He just ran a great race in the Grade 1 [when second in the Churchill Downs Turf Classic] on Derby day. It was a great spot for him and a nice confidence builder for the horse,” explained Geroux. “If somebody really wanted to go, I probably would have gone to Plan B. But it looked like he was the fastest on paper and he was pretty good.”

Factor This, a five-year old by The Factor out of the Singspeil mare Capricious Miss was bred in Kentucky by Maccabee Farm. Coming into the Dinner Party Stakes, his only defeat in ten months had come when surrendering the lead late to Digital Age in his last start, the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day. Prior to that, he’d won four consecutive races.

Somelikeithotbrown, ninth in that same race, improved off that effort to finish second, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner, yet well ahead of the remainder of the field.

“We were supposed to be on the lead and not be covered up, but that’s not what we got,” lamented Michael Maker, the trainer of Somelikeithotbrown. “He’s a classy horse. I expected a big effort today. I just wish it was on the front end.”

In winning the Dinner Party, Factor This joins a list of prolific winners that includes Paddy O’Prado, Catholic Boy and even Preakness himself. The final time on the yielding turf was 1:46.17.

Factor This, owned Gaining Ground Racing, LLC, had won on the softer going before in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park in August. In gathering this win, Factor This has five victories in his seven starts this year.

Factor This, off as the favorite, paid $3.60 to win and topped a one-dollar exacta that returned $5.60.

Factor This now has 12 wins from 32 career starts and over $1.2 million in earnings.