With the potential for heavy rain in Maryland May 16, trainer Eric Guillot likes his chances even more in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (gr. III) with Moreno, a 4-year-old gelding he hopes is sitting on a big year.
Moreno, owned by Southern Equine Stable, needed 10 starts to break his maiden. But when he did—in maiden special weight company in the mud at Belmont Park June 8, 2013—he did so in style with a wire-to-wire romp by 6 1/4 lengths.
In his next start the Kentucky homebred by Ghostzapper out of the A.P Indy mare Danceinthesunlight won the grade II Dwyer Stakes by seven lengths. He then finished third in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), fell a nose shy of winning the grade I Travers Stakes, and finished second in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).
Moreno ended his season on a disappointing note with a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). His 2014 return race, however, was far more encouraging, and it should have him well-prepped for the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special Friday afternoon.
Guillot said Moreno's third-place finish in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 19 was a good sign. The 1 1/8-mile Classic is run around three turns on the three-quarter-mile track at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
"On a bullring you can't commit early and then take back," Guillot said. "And he's not a bullring-type horse. He likes bigger turns and has a long stride."
In the Charles Town Classic Moreno was sent to the front from the break under Joel Rosario and battled early with heavily favored Game On Dude. He lost several positions from the inside after five-eighths of a mile but re-rallied to finish third behind Imperative and Game On Dude in quick time for the distance at Charles Town.
"He needed that race," Guillot said. "He was the only horse making up ground (behind the winner) at Charles Town. I'm looking forward to the (grade I Whitney Handicap) this summer, and if he runs good and comes out of (the Pimlico Special) good, we'll look at the (grade I Metropolitan Mile Handicap)."
The weather forecast as of May 15 called for one to four inches of rain in the Baltimore area from late Thursday through Friday. Advisories for flash flooding have been posted.
"He loves the mud," Guillot said of Moreno, who is approaching the $800,000 mark in earnings. "He has been training unbelievable."
Moreno is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind WinStar Farm's Revolutionary (5-2), who finished third on a sloppy track in last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).