Chez Pierre right at home in Henry S. Clark romp

Only two horses have parlayed a win in the Henry S. Clark Stakes into graded glory in the Grade 2 Dinner Party a month later, the most recent having been Hudson Steele in 2012. 

Chez Pierre served notice Saturday at Laurel Park that he has the kind of quality that could make him the third. Under pilot Daniel Centeno, the French-bred exploded past multiple graded winner Field Pass in the lane and surged to a sharp 5 ½-length win.

It was just his second start in North America, and it ran his record to a spotless five wins from five outings.

“In my opinion, he’s got everything to be a very efficient miler,” said winning trainer Arnaud Delacour. “He’s got tactical speed, and if he can settle, which is what we wanted to see, he can come with a pretty good turn of foot.”

Chez Pierre, owned by Lael Stables, began his career with three wins in France. He made his US bow March 9 at Tampa Bay Downs, prevailing by a neck as the favorite in an allowance contest while earning a Beyer speed figure of 96.

Centeno guided Chez Pierre to a near-perfect trip Saturday. He settled comfortably in fourth in the early running, a half-dozen lengths off the pace battle contested by longshots Highway Bound and Rock On Luke. The opening half-mile in the one-mile affair went by in a quick 46.56 seconds.

Centeno began to put his mount in gear on the far turn, and he quickly moved to confront Field Pass, whose last visit to the state in which he was bred netted him a win in the Grade 3 BWI Turf Cup. Field Pass floated Chez Pierre out several paths, but that merely delayed the inevitable, as once straightened away, Chez Pierre romped home well clear.

Running time for one mile over firm turf was 1:34.83. Chez Pierre navigated the last quarter-mile in about 23 seconds. Mandate was along late for second, while Field Pass held third.

“He did a great job,” Delacour said. “He showed probably a better turn of foot than he did the first time – probably because he settled better.”

Off as the favorite, Chez Pierre paid $3.80 to win. The exacta returned just $6.40 for one dollar.

Delacour was noncommittal about a future spot, though the Dinner Party, contested on Preakness day at Pimlico, would certainly make some sense, especially since he could make the short ship from Fair Hill to Baltimore.

In two other turf stakes on the day, horses making their first starts of 2022 prevailed.

In the 5 ½-furlong King T. Leatherbury, True Valour made his first start since March 2021 a winning one. Under jockey Feargal Lynch, he pulled clear into the lane and then had enough to hold off post-time favorite Grateful Bred by a half-length.

True Valour, an Irish-bred son of Kodiac, had run sixth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint last March but subsequently suffered a small condylar fracture, necessitating time on the bench. Now eight, he returned running today, getting the distance in 1:02.10.

“He looks like he’d be capable of winning a graded race,” said winning trainer Graham Motion. “He’s really come back good this year, and I was surprised when [owner R. Larry Johnson] wanted to do it; this is an eight-year-old. But that’s Larry: he loves the game, and obviously, the horse loves it, too.”

In the one-mile Dahlia for fillies and mares, Deciding Vote rallied from eighth under Angel Suarez to wear down post-time favorite In a Hurry and win by a half-length in 1:37.43 over firm turf.

It was Deciding Vote’s first stakes win and first start since October, when she had won a second-level allowance at Laurel.

“They like that vacation,” said Eddie Graham, who conditions the winner for Bill Pape. “Coming off that vacation, she was training really well, and the rider that rides her all the time said she’s doing better than she ever has.”

The Dahlia is designed as a prep for the Grade 3 Gallorette on the Preakness undercard, and Graham said he “would think” that would be the next logical spot, if Deciding Vote comes out of this contest well.

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