The Steven Miyadi-owned and -trained DIXIE COMMANDER (Dixie Union) swept to a 22-1 upset in Saturday's $50,000 Turf Paradise Derby, his first start away from his home base of Golden Gate Fields.
Jockey Wilson Dieguez positioned the bay in third early, reserved off the taxing splits set by Pinal (Rocky Bar) on the good, sealed surface. Southern California invader Indian Firewater (Indian Charlie), the prohibitive 1-2 favorite, applied fierce pressure before putting his head in front on the far turn. Although Indian Firewater managed to open up a lead in midstretch, he had no response when Dixie Commander rolled by to a 3 1/4-length decision. The final time for 1 1/16 miles at Turf Paradise was 1:45 4/5.
Indian Firewater was all alone in second, 7 1/2 lengths clear of Pinal. Majestic Afleet (Northern Afleet) checked in fourth in the nine-horse field.
“He never grabbed the bit early on and seemed not interested,” Dieguez said. “I pecked and pecked at him to get his attention. But it wasn’t until I gave him a whack left handed that he took off. Fortunately, just in time.”
Dan McFarlane, who saddled Indian Firewater for Bob Baffert, noted that the favorite lost his focus down the stretch.
“As soon as he took over the lead from Pinal, he put on the brakes and started to look around at everything,” McFarlane said.
Dixie Commander's scorecard now reads 6-2-1-1, $58,060. He broke his maiden two starts back, when stretching out to two turns and trying turf, and he was coming off a fourth in an allowance/optional claimer. The winner of that race, Posse Power (Posse), came back to finish third after prolonged traffic trouble in Saturday's El Camino Real Derby (G3).
Bred by Diamond A Racing Corp. in Kentucky, Dixie Commander was sold for $90,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. He failed to reach his reserve when bringing a bid of $140,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS February.
Dixie Commander was produced by the winning Gin Running (Go for Gin), making him a half-brother to Tizfiz (Tiznow), a Grade 2 victress on turf. He hails from the family of Favorite Trick (Phone Trick), the Horse of the Year and champion two-year-old male of 1997.