The Pimlico Special (gr. I), the springboard for Mineshaft toward Horse of the Year honors a year ago, is shaping up to what could be the best older horse lineup of the year. According to Mike Gathagan, director of broadcasting and communications for the Maryland Jockey Club, the Special may only have a field of five, but will feature three grade I winners and last year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up.
One potential starter that won't go is Paul Reddam, Mike Jarvis, and James Chisholm's Ten Most Wanted. Last year's Travers Stakes (gr. I) and Super Derby XXVI (gr. II) winner is "not 100%" according to trainer Wally Dollase and the son of Deputy Commander won't make the trip to Baltimore.
"We're talking to some doctors and we'll know in a day or two what to do," Dollase said from his base in Southern California. Ten Most Wanted, by Deputy Commander
, rolled to a 6 3/4-length score in the National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne in his last start on April 17.
Who is expected to face the starter on the day before the Preakness (May 14) in what can be billed as a "Special" Special is: Funny Cide, Southern Image, Evening Attire, Dynever, and Midway Road.
Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide, winner of last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness got back on the winning track April 3 with a half-length score over Evening Attire in the Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct. America's favorite gelding won that day going nine furlongs. The Special will be run at 1 3/16 miles, the same distance as the Preakness.
Evening Attire, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) in 2002, was gaining on Funny Cide in the closing strides of the Excelsior, but was not gaining on Midway Road in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland on April 24. Midway Road, a William S. Farish-bred son of Jade Hunter
out of the Magesterial mare Fleet Road, skipped across the Keeneland slop that day to win the 1 1/8-miles race by 11 1/4 lengths over Evening Attire. Midway Road set a track record in the performance and scored a Beyer Speed Figure of 123, the best by any horse in a race at a mile or beyond this year.
Last year Midway Road was second in the Preakness.
Southern Image is perfect in two $1-million races this year on the West Coast. The Florida-bred son of Halo's Image
won the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 24 at 1 1/8 miles, then won the 10-furlong Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 6. The Mike Machowsky-trained 4-year-old colt has won five of six career starts, including the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at seven furlongs. Southern Image is owned by Blahut Stables, the Kagele brothers, Allen Tepper, et al.
Catherine Wills and Peter Karches' Dynever will go in the Pimlico Special a fresh horse off just one outing to date in 2004, a rousing 4 1/2-length score in the San Bernardino Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita on April 3. The 4-year-old son of Dynaformer
--Flamboyance, by Zilzal, has a 4-3-1 slate from 10 career starts. Last year he won the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) before finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Trainer Christophe Clement then sent Dynever out to run second in both the West Virginia Derby (gr. III) and Meadowlands Breeders' Cup (gr. II) before running third in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
The Special is the highlight of the Pimlico card on the day on May 14, which also has the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies; the Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs; the Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap (gr. IIIT) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; and the The Very One Stakes, for fillies and mares on the grass at five furlongs.
Both the Pimlico Special and the Black-Eyed Susan will be telecast on ESPN, from 5-6 p.m. EDT.