Neil Howard may saddle a longshot Saturday in the Preakness (gr. I), but he sent out a favorite to win the $600,000 Pimlico Special (gr. I) Friday. Mineshaft and Robby Albarado won the Pimlico Special over Western Pride and longshot Judge's Case.
On Saturday, Howard will send out Midway Road in the middle leg of the Triple Crown.
Over a very sloppy track, Mineshaft sat in third behind Balto Star and Western Pride in the early going, then took to the outside as Western Pride took the lead with a half-mile to run in the 9.5-furlong race. Albarado drew Mineshaft alongside Western Pride in the turn, then pulled away down the stretch to post a 3 3/4-length win. Western Pride held off Judge's Case by a head for second.
"I was a little concerned about the track," admitted Howard "There was mud all over his pedigree but he hadn't done it yet. His style suits this kind of a day. Robby Albardo rode a beautiful race. We didn't want to get too far back. He's a model of consistency, and today was his best race."
"He gets a little nervous in the gate but I was real comfortable with his attitude and mentality today," said Albarado. "He did everything I asked. I rate him among the top ones right now. If the Breeders' Cup Classic were this week, he'd be one of the ones. I tried to keep myself thinking that the mud would not be an issue. In the New Orleans Handicap I was ahead of Balto Star, so my only question was whether I should go for the lead with Western Pride today."
Mineshaft, by A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Prospectors Delite, was bred in Kentucky by owners, Will Farish, James Elkins, and Temple Webber. Farish is also the owner of Midway Road.
Howard said the Stephen Foster (gr. I) on June 14 at Churchill Downs is the race he favors next for Mineshaft, with the Suburban Handicap (gr. I) on July 5 at Belmont after that.
Valenzuela said Western Pride was irritated when the horse to enter the starting gate ahead of him, Hero's Tribute, refused to load.
"It was a great race, but my horse was very disturbed by what happened at the gate," Valenzuela said. "He really got mad and didn't break well, but once he got settled he ran his usual good race."
Western Pride's trainer, James Chapman, shrugged it off.
"He ran a good race, just not quite good enough to win," he said. "We lost to a very good horse."
Edgar Prado, who rode Hero's Tribute, noted, "After refusing to go in the gate, he broke good. He ran his race to the three-eighths pole and that was it." Hero's Tribute faded to eighth at odds of 7-2.
Mineshaft has been very sharp lately, winning the Ben Ali (gr. III) by nine lengths in his prior start, and taking the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) by 3 ½ before that. He has won seven of 14 lifetime. Friday's victory, worth $400,000, pushed the 4-year-old colt's career bankroll to $912,044.
Mineshaft ran the 1 31/6 miles in 1:56.16 after fractions of :23.09, :46.79, 1:11.12, and 1:36.40. He paid $4.60, $3, and $2.80. Western Pride, ridden by Pat Valenzuela, was worth $4 and $3.80 and Judge's Case returned $4.40. The exacta for the top two choices in the race paid $18.40. The longshot running third saw the trifecta return $361.20.
This was the first year the Pimlico Special was moved to the day prior to the Preakness. The attendance was 16,513 under very poor weather conditions.