Bye Bye Melvin, English Bee Top $250,000 Dinner Party (G2)

May 11th, 2021

120th Year for Saturday Turf Stakes, Oldest Stakes Race at Pimlico

BALTIMORE, MD | May 11th, 2021 – Grade 3-winning stablemates Bye Bye Melvin and English Bee will take on the imposing pair of Kuramata and Grade 1-placed Sacred Life as well as Grade 2 winner Somelikeithotbrown in a competitive edition of Saturday’s $250,000 Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico Race Course.

The 120th running of the 1 1/16-mile Dinner Party for 3-year-olds and up on the grass is part of a spectacular 14-race program featuring 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.25 million in purses headlined by the 146th renewal of the Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Other graded-stakes on the card are the $200,000 Chick Lang (G3) for 3-year-olds and $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3), both going six furlongs; $150,00 Gallorette for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/16 miles on the grass; and $100,000 UAE President Cup (G1) for Arabian horses.

First race post time is 10:30 a.m.

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 the Hall of Famer Preakness. The distance has changed eight times over its history, settling at the current 1 1/16 miles in 2014.

Alex G. Campbell Jr.’s Bye Bye Melvin, a homebred son of champion Uncle Mo, made his 4-year-old debut in an open, third-level allowance at the Dinner Party distance April 15 at Keeneland, where he took a short lead into the stretch and nearly held it the rest of the way before being beaten a neck when second to Midnight Tea Time. It was his first race since running third by one length in the 1 1/8-mile Bryan Station Nov. 6 over the same course.

“He’s been very consistent. He was a little unlucky the other day coming off the layoff. He might have gotten a little tired,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He’s a very hard-trying, hard-knocking horse. He’s been thrown all sorts of different ground to run on.”

Bye Bye Melvin won the one-mile Saranac (G3) by a head last summer on a soft course at Saratoga, then was beaten a nose when second in the James W. Murphy over yielding ground on the Preakness undercard in October. 

“He’s put in some really strong efforts which kind of show that his Saratoga win was not a fluke, I think,” Motion said. “He’s a big, strong, gorgeous horse. I think this will hopefully be a stepping stone to some longer races this summer. Ultimately, I think probably a mile and a quarter is going to be a good trip for him.”

Motion, whose previous Dinner Party wins came with Dr. Brendler in 2003 and Better Talk Now in 2006 when it was contested as the Dixie, will also send out Calumet Farm homebred English Bee. A 5-year-old son of turf champion English Channel, he will be racing for the first time since running fifth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance Oct. 8 at Keeneland.

“We gave him a freshening over the winter. I felt like he’d been going at it for a long time without a break,” Motion said. “After we ran him at Keenleand last time I wanted to give him some time. He went to the farm at Calumet and Jack Sisterson got him started for me and he came back to me here in the beginning of the year.”

English Bee won the 1 1/8-mile Virginia Derby (G3) at Colonial Downs and the one-mile Parx Fall Derby in successive 2019 starts but has gone winless since. During that stretch, other than his most recent race, he hasn’t lost by more than 3 ½ lengths with seconds by a neck in the Wise Dan (G2) and half-length in the Canadian Turf (G3).

“This horse, I love this horse. He’s a hard-knocking, tough little horse,” Motion said. “He’s been a little unlucky probably not to come away with another win in one of these races he’s been in, but he hasn’t been beaten far in some pretty tough races. He’s a hard-trying horse.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Bye Bye Melvin from outermost Post 8, while Joel Rosario has the assignment on English Bee from Post 2.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, winner of the 2016 Dinner Party with Takeover Target, entered Kuramata and Sacred Life. Peter Brant’s Kuramata will be making just his fourth career start and first in a stakes, breaking his maiden Feb. 21 at Tampa Bay Downs and winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance April 2 at Aqueduct in his two races this year.

Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Bethlehem Stables’ Sacred Life was a Group 3 winner in his native France that has yet to break through with his first graded-stakes in North America. Winner of the 1 1/16-mile Oceanport last summer at Monmouth Park, the 6-year-old ran third by 2 ½ lengths in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) April 9 at Keeneland in his first race in seven months.

Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard Kuramata from Post 3 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano riding Sacred Life from Post 5.

Also exiting the Maker’s Mark Mile, where he was seventh by less than four lengths, is Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Somelikeithotbrown, second to Factor This in last fall’s Dinner Party. Trained by Mike Maker, the 5-year-old son of 2008 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown is a graded winner on two surfaces, taking the 2019 Jeff Ruby (G3) on the all-weather at Turfway Park and the Bernard Baruch (G2) over the Saratoga turf last summer.

Somelikeithotbrown owns four wins and three seconds in seven career tries at the Dinner Party distance. Jose Ortiz gets the call from Post 1.

“He was second in this race last year,” Maker said. “It’s a nice distance for him.”

Completing the field are Dreams of Tomorrow, third by 1 ¼ lengths in the Henry S. Clark April 24 at Pimlico for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey; 2018 American Derby (G3) winner Real Story; Talk Or Listen, Group 3-placed in France in 2019; and stakes-placed Midnight Tea Time.