BALTIMORE — Ironicus surged in the stretch to win the $300,000 Dixie Stakes, the richest race Saturday on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico.
The gray 4-year-old was making his stakes debut against an experienced field. Showing a veteran's savvy, the colt making only his eighth start split rivals in the stretch, pulling away to a 2 3/4-length win over Cage Fighter.
Javier Castellano was aboard for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey as Ironicus improved to 3 for 8.
"We've always held him in high regard," McGaughey said. "He just trains and looks like a good horse."
The time was 1:40.53 for the 1 1/16 miles on the firm course.
Ironicus paid $16.20, $8.60 and $6.
Cage Fighter returned $25.20 and $13.80, and Up With the Birds paid $5 to show.
Grand Tito, with Victor Espinoza, was scratched moments before the start when he acted up in the starting gate. Neither the horse nor rider were injured.
In the other stakes:
—Watsdachances won her season debut, rallying to take the $150,000 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf.
The 5-year-old, second in this race last year, got her fifth win in 16 starts. Watsdachances beat Emotional Kitten by one length, giving jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Chad Brown their third victories in the stakes. She paid $6.80 to win as the 2-1 favorite. The time was 1:40.79 for 1 1/16 miles.
—Sandbar provided trainer Joe Sharp, the husband of retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, his first graded stakes victory with a three-quarter length win in the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap.
Service for Ten was second with Happy My Way, winner of this race last year, third after setting the pace.
Joel Rosario was aboard for the six furlongs in 1:09.81. Sandbar paid $10.80 to win as the 4-year-old gelding got his fifth victory in 19 starts.
—Woodwin W, owned by Woody Weekes, improved to 4 for 4 in his stakes debut, the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.
The gelding trained by Jamie Ness and ridden by Jevian Toledo rallied to beat Force the Pass, the 2-1 favorite, by three quarters of a length. He paid $9 to win. The time was 1:34.22 for the mile.
—Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won a 3-year-old stakes when Fame and Power led all the way in the $100,000 Sir Barton.
The colt improved to 2 for 7 with a three-length win over Bold Conquest, paying $6 as the 2-1 second choice. The time was 1:41.67 for the 1 1/16 miles with Martin Garcia aboard.
Donworth, the 3-2 favorite, was third.
—Holy Boss extended his winning streak to three with a two-length victory over Victory Is Sweet in the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters.
It was second Chick Lang win for Trainer Steve Asmussen, who captured the 2008 renewal with Lantana Mob.
Ricardo Santana rode Holy Boss to his fourth win in seven starts, paying $11.40 to win. The time was 109.61 for the six furlongs.
—Ageless defended her title in the $100,000 Very One Stakes, winning by the same three-quarter of a length margin as last year.
And she set the course record, covering the five furlongs on the turf in 55.66 seconds.
The 6-year-old trained by Arnaud Delacour and ridden by Julien Leparoux posted her ninth win in 19 starts. She paid $4.60 to win as the 6/5 favorite.