Never Explain gives McGaughey fifth Dinner Party win

Never Explain provided trainer Shug McGaughey his fifth table setting in the Dinner Party Stakes winner’s circle Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. winning by a half-length under jockey Flavien Prat. 

The Hall of Fame trainer has now won Pimlico’s oldest stakes race five times with five different jockeys.  McGaughey saddled Lure to win his first Dinner Party in 1993.

That’s five wins with five jockeys over a period of 30 years. Remarkably enough, all five riders – Mike Smith, Kent Desormeaux, Javier Castellano, Manny Franco, and today’s pilot Flavien Prat, all are still riding. McGaughey has won three of the last nine runnings of the Dinner Party, formerly the Dixie.

Defying explanation, McGaughey’s horse, Never Explain, was the longest price in the field at more than 15-1 and set the track record for a mile and an eighth in 1:46.14 over a firm turf course that had been held by Mr. O’Brien since 2004 (1:46.34).

The $200,000, Grade 3 Dinner Party Stakes for three-year-olds and upwards on the turf is named after the 1868 event at Saratoga Springs, NY where Maryland governor Ogden Bowie conjured up the vision for building Pimlico. The first winner of the eighth oldest stakes race in America was a thoroughbred named Preakness. This year’s edition returned to 1 ⅛ miles, from 1 1/16, for the first time since 2013.

Never Explain is a five-year-old son of Street Sense out of the Forestry (IRE) mare Black Oak and owned by Courtlandt Farms. It was the third consecutive win for Never Explain and his first victory in stakes company.


Never Explain was put to a “hustling ride” and later “surged between rivals,” according to the Equibase chart, but his momentum for the Dinner Party may have started well before the gates opened.

“I think it’s a big confidence builder for them if they can go over there (Tampa Bay Downs) and win a couple of races right away. I’ve had some luck doing that,” explained McGaughey after the race. “Whether he was going to get there or not, I didn’t know. I knew he was running.”

With Tyler Gaffalione aboard, Atone, winner earlier this year of the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park in January, led for the first mile, setting fractions in 23.85 and 47.40 for the quarter and half, reaching a mile in 1:34.22 with a one-length lead over Emmanuel and Irad Ortiz, Jr.. 

Prat rated Never Explain, saving ground, and was three lengths off the leaders with a furlong to go. Importantly, he was two lengths in advance of 6-5 favorite Hurricane Dream at that point.

“It looked like the pace was honest, and I tucked myself in,” Prat explained after the race. “I tipped him out turning for home, and he really dug in and was game today. On the form, it felt like anybody could win. Turning for home, I thought I had a chance but I felt I wasn’t the only one.”

Prat had won four stakes over two days at Pimlico through the 10th race Saturday.

Hurricane Dream also rallied to get second for trainer Graham Motion who saddled three horses in the field, finishing second, fourth, and sixth. Emmanuel held on for third. Speaking Scout, Atone, Easter and Rising Empire completed the order of finish.

Never Explain paid a generous $32.40 to win and topped an exacta that returned $57.90 for a one-dollar wager. He now has five wins from 15 career starts and earnings of $242,062.