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Race of the Week: Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico | Saturday, May 18, 2024

by Jeremy Plonk

May 15, 2024

The Lead:
Saturday's Preakness Stakes Day lineup at Pimlico is loaded with stakes intrigue on the undercard. Among the supporting features is the $500,000 Dinner Party Stakes, in receipt of a purse boost this year and with its strongest field in a long time. It's Race 12 and immediately precedes the 149th Preakness.

Horseplayers on the 1/ST BET and Xpressbet platforms can enjoy up to a $10 money-back special on selected Pimlico stakes races throughout Friday and Saturday if your win bet finishes second or third. The Dinner Party also is part of the $50,000 Exacta-Thon promotion over Friday and Saturday at Pimlico.

Field Depth:
Grade 1 winners entered include HIGHLAND CHIEF, ATONE and ADHAMO. EMMANUEL is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed. Four others are Grade 3 winners: BEATBOX, EONS, BALNIKHOV and ENGLISH BEE. The is an exceptionally strong race for a Grade 3 stakes.

Above-average to quick pace projected with HELMS DEEP, wide-drawn FUNTASTIC AGAIN / EMMANUEL, ENGLISH BEE and RUNNING BEE all with some semblance of early interest. Don't be averse to taking a strong finisher.

Our Eyes:
Here are my horse-by-horse notes.

#1-HIGHLAND CHIEF: 2-time Dinner Party winner Graham Motion saddles this 7-year-old who has raced just once since 2022, a season that included a score in the Grade 1 Man o' War. Best trips have been farther in distance.

#2-ENGLISH BEE: Second of 2 Graham Motion trainees in the field, this one has lost 9 straight but exits a runner-up in Maryland's key prep, the Henry S. Clark Stakes. Won the 2019 James W. Murphy, the first of his now 4 appearances on a Preakness Day undercard. Fifth in this race in '22, seventh in '21.

#3-BALNIKHOV: Californian ran his best race in some time when third last out in the San Francisco Mile, but faces a much tougher field on Saturday. Pairs with international turf star jockey Frankie Dettori, whose dance card includes Imagination later in the Preakness. Brings 8-race losing streak into Baltimore.

#4-ATONE: Third DInner Party appearance for 2022 third-place finisher and last year's pace-setting fifth-place finisher who was beaten only a length for all the money. He's dropped 9 straight decisions since winning the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf 16 months ago, but has bagged $1.4 million lifetime.

#5-RUNNING BEE: Recent Keeneland allowance winner steps up to his toughest career test while in good form. Trainer Chad Brown gets a return ride from Tyler Gaffalione, and those 2 partner in the Preakness with Tuscan Gold a race later. Should be forwardly placed in the early mix.

#6-CRABS N BEER: 4-time Dinner Party-winning jockey Javier Castellano could tie the race's all-time record if this Maryland-bred pulls a significant upset. Exits a local allowance win, but takes a major rise in class.

#7-ADHAMO: 6-year-old is just a smidge under the $1 million mark in lifetime earnings, but has struggled with 8 straight losses since the 2022 Grade 1 United Nations victory at Monmouth. Formidable turf connections with Chad Brown and Flavien Prat, and he's taken on stronger competition than many of these.

#8-HELMS DEEP: Local claiming victor could be part of the early pace, but unlikely to factor late.

#9-BEATBOX: Far and away the field's top finisher in terms of BRIS late pace figures, teamed well with strong-finishing jockey Joel Rosario for a Cherie DeVaux barn going very well this spring. Exits a strong edition of the Muniz at Fair Grounds, though some of its alumni disappointed in the tough Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill after that effort.

#10-EMMANUEL: A narrow third-place finisher in this race last year, the Todd Pletcher trainee returns and makes his third start off the layoff. Won the Canadian Turf to start '24 at Gulfstream before a pace-setting fifth in an extremely strong renewal of the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland. His best races typically come when on or near the front.

#11-EONS: Maryland-based veteran 8YO has a Pimlico turf allowance win back in 2019 on his ledger, but didn't threaten recently in Laurel's Henry S. Clark in preparation for this. HIs last 3 wins have all come by a nose, so you'll welcome his chances if he's in the mix in deep stretch.

#12-FUNTASTIC AGAIN: Widest post draw for second straight race, succumbing late in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway when leaving from the 11-hole. Rare distance specialist for sprint ace Wesley Ward, but has given way twice when attempting Saturday's 9F distance. John Velazquez rides from the difficult starting assignment.

Most Certain Exotics Contender:
BEATBOX gets a great pace set-up and can flat-out rally late.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
Not wild about any huge prices here, but EONS could outrun his odds in his second start off the layoff.

Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$90 win BEATBOX. $10 daily double BEATBOX to TUSCAN GOLD in the Preakness.