5YO Making Stakes Debut Sets 1 1/8-Mile Turf Course Record of 1:46.14
LAUREL, MD – Courtlandt Farm’s 5-year-old Never Explain, making his 15th career start and first in a stakes, edged clear of four rivals in the final 50 yards to register a record-setting half-length upset at odds of 15-1 in Saturday’s $200,000 Dinner Party (G3) presented by Bulleit Bourbon at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 122nd running of the 1 1/8-mile Dinner Party for 3-year-olds and up on the grass was the fourth of 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.75 million in purses headlined by the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
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 Hall of Famer Preakness. The distance has changed eight times over its history, returning to nine furlongs this year for the first time since 2013.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and ridden by Flavien Prat, Never Explain ($32.40) earned his fifth career win and third in a row following optional claiming allowance triumphs Jan. 18 and March 1 at Tampa Bay Downs. The son of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense now has two wins and a third in three lifetime tries at Pimlico, his prior victory coming exactly a year to the day prior to the Dinner Party.
It was the first Dinner Party victory for Prat but the fifth for McGaughey, who previously won with Hall of Famer Lure (1993), Parading (2009), Ironicus (2015) and Fire Away (2018).
Prat settled Never Explain in fourth along the rail as Atone, rallying winner of the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) in January, took the field of seven through a quarter of a mile in 23.85 seconds and a half in 47.40, pressed by three-time graded turf stakes winner Emmanuel. Never Explain moved into third midway around the far turn and was tipped to the outside by Prat straightening for home, driving to the wire between Emmanuel and Hurricane Dream to win in 1:46.14 over a firm turf course.
The previous course record of 1:46.34 was set by 5-year-old Mr O’Brien in his 2004 Dinner Party victory under Hall of Fame jockey Ramon Dominguez for trainer Robin Graham.
Hurricane Dream, placed in five group stakes in Europe who was beaten four lengths in the Pegasus Turf, his North American debut, was a head behind Emmanuel for second. They were followed by Speaking Scout, Atone, Easter – separated by 1 ¼ lengths – and Rising Empire.
The Dinner Party takes its name from an 1868 gathering in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. where Maryland Gov. Oden Bowie and others met, wagered and ultimately laid the foundation for the building of Pimlico Race Course, which opened in 1870.
$200,000 Dinner Party (G3) Quotes
Winning Trainer Shug McGaughey (Never Explain): “I think it was great ride with Flavien (Prat). He saved ground. He got him to relax. He had horse when it came time. When he asked him, he was there. Whether he was going to get there or not, I don’t know, but I knew he was running.”
(Third-straight win with blinkers off) “Even without the blinkers he wants to pull a little bit. That was one of the good things about today. He got him to relax really well, where he had horse at the finish.”
Winning Jockey Flavien Prat (Never Explain): “It looked like the pace was honest, and I tucked myself in. 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. It seemed like the horse coming outside of me helped me and pushed my horse. So yeah, it was great. He was really game today.”
Trainer Graham Motion (Hurricane Dream, 2nd , Speaking Scout, 4th , Easter, 6th): “A little tough, but he ran well. I was very pleased with Hurricane Dream. Speaking Scout was unlucky. He said if he could have gotten through, he just didn’t have anywhere to go. The other horse (Easter) was a little disappointing. He always breaks a little slow, which hurts him. The two of them (Hurricane Dream and Speaking Scout) certainly ran very well.”
Jockey Joel Rosario (Hurricane Dream, 2nd): “We broke fine. I just took my time with him, and he relaxed nicely for me. The winner was a little bit in front of me. My horse ran his race and had a great run to the finish. I felt for a second he might get there, but the winner just kept moving. The turf may be a little speed favoring today. Overall, that was a terrific horse race.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Emmanuel, 3rd): “We had a beautiful trip. Broke good, sat second where I bided my time. Then he tried all the way to the wire. It was a great race, and he ran very well.”