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Pletcher Has A Pair Of Live Runners In Friday's Pimlico Special
BALTIMORE, 05-11-14---Trainer Todd Pletcher has never had one of his horses win the storied $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3), but that could change come Friday.
Pletcher will send two strong contenders, Revolutionary and Golden Lad, to post in the Special that will see nine horses start the 12th race of the day.
Both horses come in off strong performances in the Oaklawn Handicap and Pletcher said he expects Revolutionary, who finished third in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1), to run “as well as he is capable of racing.” The son of War Pass is the 5-2 morning line favorite set by Pimlico handicapper Keith Feustle.
Golden Lad, meanwhile, has won four of his last five starts. The winning string was broken at Oaklawn, when his jockey, Gary Stevens, said the horse did not handle the track surface well. In the Special, Golden Lad, breaking from the No. 4 hole, returns to jockey Jose Lezcano, who rode him to three of his previous four wins.
“We’ve had our eye on the Pimlico Special since the Oaklawn Handicap,” Pletcher said. “It’s based on how they are both doing and training, the timing and the distance.”
Asked if he’s looking for something out of the Special, aside from the joy of one of them winning, in terms of each horse’s development, Pletcher said no.
“The focus is purely on the Pimlico Special,” he said. “It’s prestigious in its own rite. We’d be very happy to win it.”
So would the trainers of the other seven horses going to post in a race whose history goes back to the storied match between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.
Trainer Eric Guillot, for instance, said his horse, Moreno, is among the top five handicap horses in the country. He also said if the other horses want to beat his, “they’ll have to run better numbers” than they have been.
“But,” he added, “all the horses in this race bother me. They’ve all got a chance, even though I think I have one of the best here. It’s a horse race – anything can happen.”
Guillot was reminded of that in April when he had to totally change his plans for Moreno. The horse was scheduled for the Oaklawn Handicap but came down with a fever. Guillot had to scratch those plans and his plans for the Met Mile. He shipped his stable to Saratoga. Then he decided to bring graded stakes winner Moreno, who has finished among the top three in five of his last six races – all of them G1 and G2 stakes - to Pimlico.
“The distance suits him. The speed suits him and his running style,” Guillot said. “He’s a front runner. I think my horse has to be the favorite.”
Bob Baffert sends out Cat Burglar with jockey Rosie Napravnik up. The son of Unbridled’s Song comes in off two wins and three in his last five starts.
“His last two wins have been pretty impressive,” Baffert said of the horse’s past two starts at Santa Anita. “So I’m going to give him a shot at it.”
Baffert added he did not consider Cat Burglar for any races at Churchill Downs earlier this month, choosing instead to focus on the Special.
“The owner [Michael L. Petersen] is from the area – he lives in Maryland,” Baffert said. “So I thought we’d bring him over there and give him a race and see how he handles it.”
The Pimlico Special field, from the rail out: Valid (Marcus Vitali, Orlando Bocachica, 10-1), Cat Burglar (Bob Baffert, Rosie Napravnik, 4-1), Moreno (Eric Guillot, Joel Rosario, 7-2), Golden Lad (Todd Pletcher, Jose Lezcano, 6-1), Carve (Brad Cox, Jesus Castanon, 5-1), Revolutionary (Todd Pletcher, Mike Smith, 5-2), Major King (Lori Testerman, Xavier Perez, 50-1), Prayer For Relief (Dale Romans, John Velazquez, 12-1), and Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder, Leandro Goncalves, 15-1).
The Special is one of eight stakes races on the Friday card that is highlighted by the 90th running of the $500,000 Black Eyed Susan (G2).
BEN’S CAT LOOKS FOR THIRD JIM MCKAY TURF SPRINT WIN IN FOUR YEARS
But still another stakes of interest to area fans is the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, which will be televised live on NBC Sports Network from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The race could be a singular showcase for Maryland bred Ben’s Cat.
Bred, owned and trained by King Leatherbury, 81, Ben’s Cat will start from the eight post in the nine horse field. The race seemingly has become an annual spring event for the gelding many describe as a “Freak”.
The eight-year-old by Parker’s Storm Cat out of Thirty Eight Paces has won more than $1.9 million and is the winningest horse ever in Leatherbury’s barn.
The winner of two of the last three Jim McKay Turf Sprints, Ben’s Cat comes in off his sixth straight victory in the Mister Diz Stakes, also run here at Pimlico.
“It does appear that way,” Leatherbury said, when asked if the horse is getting better with age. “It’s hard to say for certain, though, because it is very strange for a horse to maintain stakes-caliber form over this many years. But I just had another trainer who came into Pimlico recently tell me, ‘King, Ben’s looking better than he ever has.’
“So that’s an outsider’s opinion. I’m lucky to have other trainers watching my horse and saying things like that – and I don’t even have to pay them!”
Leatherbury said the distance, the turf and being on his home track suits the horse perfectly and he expects Ben’s Cat to be the morning line favorite.
“I’ve looked at the nominations and I knew right away he’s going to be the favorite,” said the trainer. “The race isn’t drawing big out-of-town horses from California or New York, and though there will be some good runners, I feel relatively safe. He’s coming into this race good – like he always does. He’s just an amazing horse.”
The other five stake races on Friday’s card are $40,000 the Kattegat’s Pride Starter Handicap (race 1), the $100,000 Skipat Stakes (race 5), the $75,000 Rollicking Stakes (race 7), the $100,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes (race 11) and the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes (race 13).
About Pimlico Race Course
Historic Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness® Stakes, the middle jewel in horse racing's famed Triple Crown, first opened its doors on October 25, 1870, and is the second oldest racetrack in the United States. Pimlico has played host to racing icons and Baltimoreans have seen the likes of legendary horses such as Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Affirmed and Cigar thunder down the stretch in thrilling and memorable competition. For more information on Pimlico, visit www.pimlico.com.
Pimlico Race Course is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida and is one of North America's top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; Xpressbet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is also a major producer of televised horse racing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network and is North America's premier supplier of virtual online horse racing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry.