The Michael Machowsky-trained Southern Image took his third grade I event of the year when he scored a 1 ¼-length win over Midway Road in the $500,000 Pimlico Special (gr. I) Friday at Pimlico Race Course.
Bowman's Band was 2 ½ lengths back for third.
A crowd of 24,471 watched at Old Hilltop. The handle was $12,224,390 with in-state numbers increasing by 48% from last year's total.
Owned by Blahut Stables, Kagel Brothers, and Tepper, Allen and partners, Southern Image completed the 1 3/16-mile distance in 1:55.89. Victor Espinoza was aboard Southern Image.
The winner returned $5.80, $3.20, $3.00. Midway Road paid $4.20 and $3.60, with Bowman's Band paying $6.40. The exacta paid $34 with the trifecta returning $250.80.
Evening Attire, slight 8-5 favorite Dynever and Ole Faunty completed the order.
"The way the track was playing today I thought they would come back to me," said Corey Nakatani, who rode Dynever. "I thought I had a lot of horse, but after he changed leads he was spinning his wheels. I guess the track was too heavy."
Earlier in the year, Southern Image won the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita Park by three lengths and followed that effort with a 1 ¼-length win in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). He captured the seven-furlong Malibu (gr. I) to open the Santa Anita meeting Dec. 26.
The son of Halo's Image
out of the Dixieland Band
mare Pleasant Dixie has won five consecutive race and has six wins in seven lifetime starts.
Southern Image became the third horse to win both the Santa Anita Handicap and the Pimlico Special, joining Seabiscuit and Farma Way. He and Farma Way (1991) as the only horse to turn the feat in the same year.
The victory, worth $300,000, pushed the 4-year-od dark bay's career earnings to $1,681,600.
"Everytime this horse runs, it brings tears to my eyes," Machowsky said. "He just keeps getting better and better. We still haven't found the bottom of this horse."
The Special was turned into a five-horse field following the scratch of dual Classic winner Funny Cide, but that didn't matter to Southern Image and Midway Road, who turned the Special a two-horse race.
After a clean break, Southern Image and Bowman's Band broke quickly, but Midway Road, under jockey Robby Albarado, took over the lead rounding the first turn. Midway Road led the field through fractions of :24.42, :47.53, and 1:11.88 after three-quarters.
As the field rounded the turn for home Midway Road and Southern Image were dueling toward the wire, with Southern Image outlasting the Neil Howard trainee.
"I was pretty confident," Machowsky said. "My horse was going so easy about the five-eighths pole I knew we were going to be pretty tough. My only question at quarter pole was where was Midway Road and I saw him looming up, but I knew my horse had something left, so I was pretty confident all the way around. Victor rides this horse like a dream. He puts him in perfect position every time. It was his best effort yet."
"That was quite a stretch duel," Espinoza added. "I didn't know when we would go by, but I had confidence we would. I thought I had much the best horse and that's why I didn't want to move too soon."
Midway Road was making his first grae I appearance since finishing second in last year's Preakness.
"He is a hell of a horse," Howard said. "He was trying to come back at the end so hard, but he just couldn't get there."
Arthur Appleton bred Southern Image in Florida. Machowsky purchased the colt for $300,000 at the 2002 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March 2-year-olds in training sale from the consignment of Bridlewood Farm.