Set Piece Rebounds With Dinner Party Score


Photo: Skip Dickstein
Set Piece wins the Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico Race Course

Set Piece  was in the zone May 21 in the $250,000 Dinner Party Stakes (G2T) at Pimlico Race Course, and that focus paid dividends for the Juddmonte homebred.

Unlike his return off the layoff April 15 in the Maker's Mark Mile Stakes (G1T) at Keeneland, where he fought jockey Florent Geroux throughout behind a slow pace and tired to finish seventh, the 6-year-old son of Dansili  settled well off the pace Saturday and had plenty of energy left to make his late run.

"We were looking to settle today," said trainer Brad Cox. "Last time at Keeneland, we didn't settle off the layoff. 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."

As Atone  led the seven-horse field through early fractions of :23.44 and :47.81, Geroux was content to track along in sixth aboard the 2-1 favorite, who got off a bit slow and then rated well through three-quarters in 1:12.56. That was where Set Piece swung out five wide for the drive, closing sharply through a 1:35.90 mile en route to a 1 1/4-length victory. The final time was 1:41.64 over a firm turf course.

"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.

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"Today, he covered up nicely and was nice and relaxed. When I tipped him out, I could tell I was going really fast."

Set Piece with Florent Geroux up wins the Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico on May 21, 2022.
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Set Piece gallops home to victory in the Dinner Party Stakes

Tango Tango Tango , who tracked the pace and briefly challenged, kept on gamely to earn the place. Atone gave way grudgingly to complete the trifecta.

"Florent did a great job," Cox said. "It looked like they were strung out down the backside. He responds well when there's some pace to run out. I thought there was enough pace, based off the races I saw yesterday and today. The turf course seems to be pretty fair there."

It was the first win for Set Piece since his Wise Dan Stakes (G2T) score last June at Churchill Downs. After a runner-up finish in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1T) at Saratoga Race Course in August, he wrapped the season with a seventh in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1T) at Woodbine and went to the sideline.

"He had been running all year long, I just wanted to give him some time," Cox said. "After Woodbine, he just seemed tired."

Set Piece improved his record to 10-2-1 from 20 starts, with earnings of $697,823. His résumé includes victories last season in the Douglas Park Overnight Stakes and Opening Verse Overnight Stakes, along with a 2020 Prairie Bayou Stakes score at Turfway Park. Earlier in his career before being imported to the U.S., he took in the British Stallion Studs E.B.F. Hyde Stakes in 2019 at Kempton Park. 

"He's a good horse. He's a gelding, but our goal is definitely to try to get a grade 1 win at some point in his career," Cox said. "I just think it would be neat for him and obviously for Juddmonte." 

"In my opinion, he can win a grade 1," Geroux added. "I'm not saying he's going to win the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), but I can see him winning a race like the Woodbine Mile or the Fourstardave."

Set Piece is the sixth of nine foals out of the Kingmambo mare Portodora , seven of which have been winners. Her last reported foal is an unraced 2-year-old Nathaniel  filly named Carrier Wave.