Set Piece scores in G2 Dinner Party
Juddmonte homebred Set Piece, unhurried in the early going, came with a sweeping move through the stretch on the extreme outside to reel in Tango Tango Tango and pacesetting Atone and capture Saturday’s $250,000 Dinner Party (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Pimlico’s oldest stakes race and the eighth-oldest in the country, the Dinner Party was contested at two miles for its 1870 debut, won by the Hall of Famer Preakness. The distance has changed eight times over its history, settling at the current 1 1/16 miles in 2014.
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Set Piece ($6.20) covered the distance in 1:41.64 over a firm course to snap a three-race losing streak dating back to his victory in the Wise Dan (G2) last June. It was the second Dinner Party win for jockey Florent Geroux and trainer Brad Cox, following Factor This in 2020.
“We were looking to settle today. Last time at Keeneland, we didn’t settle off the layoff,” Cox said. “I don’t know if that was him being fresh off the layoff or what it was. But he did settle today, and that had a lot to do with him having a really good closing kick.
Geroux and Cox also teamed up to win Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico with Interstatedaydream.
Trained by Mike Maker, who won last year’s Dinner Party with Somelikeithotbrown, Atone flashed early speed and was left alone through a quarter-mile in 23.44 seconds with English Bee second and Tango Tango Tango saving ground along the rail. English Bee, seventh in the 2021 Dinner Party, and Tango Tango Tango closed the gap after a half-mile in 47.81.
“I could tell when my horse was off the bridle in the first turn, there was a good-enough pace,” Geroux said. “I don’t know the exact fractions, but from there I just sat and laid back and when the horses came back to me before the quarter pole, I kept it simple and let him do his thing the last quarter of a mile.”
Set Piece, who trailed all but one horse, Nathan Detroit, in the early going, was tipped outside by Geroux rounding the far turn and began to roll on the far outside, gaining ground with every stride and getting to the front in the final sixteenth of a mile to earn his 10th career victory from 20 starts.
Tango Tango Tango edged Atone by a neck for second, with late-running Beacon Hill another length back in fourth followed by English Bee, Nathan Detroit and Novo Sol.
Set Piece is a gelded 6-year-old son of Dansili bred in England. He had raced once this year off a seven-month layoff, finishing seventh by two lengths in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) April 15 at Keeneland. The Dinner Party was his first race beyond a mile since the Wise Dan.
Set Piece won the Grade 2 Dinner Party. Photo by Allison Janezic.