Tango Tango Tango hopes to dance in Dinner Party

The question facing Calumet Farm’s Tango Tango Tango in Saturday’s $250,000 Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico Race Course is whether the 4-year-old colt is ready to win, win, win a graded stake.

The bay son of Tourist showed ability last year, finishing second in the Bruce D (G1) at Arlington Park. He steps back into graded company in the 121st running of the 1 1/16-mile Dinner Party for 3-year-olds and up on the grass off victories at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park. Tango Tango Tango drew the rail in the field of seven that was entered Monday.

First race post time is 10:30 a.m. The Dinner Party is carded as the eighth race with a projected post time of 2:49 p.m.

Pimlico’s oldest stakes race and the eighth-oldest in the country, the Dinner Party was contested at two miles for its 1870 debut – on opening day of the new Pimlico course – and won by the Hall of Famer Preakness. Long called the Dixie and returned to its original name in 2020, the Dinner Party has been won by 10 other horses that are in the Hall of Fame. That distinguished group includes Triple Crown winners Whirlaway and Assault as well as Lure, Fort Marcy and Equipoise. The distance has changed eight times over its history, settling at the current distance in 2014.

Tango Tango Tango is the leading performer from the first crop by Tourist, whose time of 1:31.71 is the stakes record in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Calumet purchased him as a yearling for $35,000 in 2019. He did not race as a 2-year-old and in his fourth career start last year, wearing blinkers for the first time, he broke his maiden with a victory in the American Derby. A month later, he ended up second by 2 ¾ lengths to Point Me By following a troubled trip in the one-mile, Grade 1 Bruce D for trainer Jack Sisterson. The blinkers were off for his last-place finish in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational on September 18, but they are back on again this season.

Sisterson said that Tango Tango Tango did not grow much but filled out over the winter.

“A bit of time off after the race at Belmont did him a world of good,” Sisterson said. “We just felt as a 3-year-old, he was a bit on the lighter side. We thought he was going to be a better older horse, so we give him time off and he’s sort of paying us back.”

Tango Tango Tango is 2-for-2 in 2022. He returned six months after his Belmont fade to capture a 7 ½-furlong optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on March 27.

“We can’t complain of what he’s done so far. Winning off a layoff, we rarely do as a barn,” Sisterson said. “I don’t get them 100% fit to win off a layoff. I like them to improve with the run. He obviously overcame that to win at Gulfstream going seven and a half, and a wide trip as well, which I thought was convincing.”

On May 1, Tango Tango Tango was game in a half-length victory going 1 ¼ miles in an optional claimer on turf at Belmont.

“That wasn’t the original plan,” Sisterson said. “He didn’t get into the two-other-than at Keeneland so I had to scramble for Plan B because he was ready to run again. We sent him up there and, obviously, going from seven and a half to a mile and a quarter was a question mark. He had never won over that distance, but I think Flavien Prat helped us out, as well. He put him in the right spot.

“It was pleasing for me to see his versatility over different distances,” he added. “He’s a horse that can be forwardly placed if the pace is slow and get him to relax if the pace is quick up front. He’s doing great at the moment.”

He won’t find the going easy in the Dinner Party. The field includes graded stakes winners Set Piece and English Bee, as well as the graded stakes-placed Atone and the improving Beacon Hill.

Atone and Set Piece both exit the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland where they finished fourth and seventh, respectively, though beaten just one and two lengths. Trained by Mike Maker, Atone earned a graded placing when second in the G2 Fort Lauderdale this past December.

Set Piece won the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs last June. Trained by Brad Cox, he has earned more than $540,000.

English Bee won the 2019 Grade 3 Virginia Derby for trainer Graham Motion for his top score to date.

Tango Tango Tango

Tango Tango Tango won an allowance at Belmont Park. Photo by NYRA.