While much of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s attention will be focused on his Preakness Stakes (gr. I) contender Midnight Interlude May 21, a victory that same day by another member of his barn, Ventana, in the Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico would surely bring a smile to his face.
Ventana, the only previous graded stakes winner entered in the Maryland Sprint, is seeking his first score outside California. The race, which attracted a field of nine, will be contested at six furlongs on the Preakness undercard. The $100,000 contest for 3-year-olds and up is slated for 2:55 p.m. ET.
Ventana, a 5-year-old son of Toccet, would break a four-race losing streak if he should win the Maryland Sprint. The bay horse’s last victory came in the 2010 Portrero Grande Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park. Ventana will enter the Maryland Sprint off a third in this year’s Potrero Grande. In all, he holds a record of 3-4-3 from 18 starts, for earnings of $306,002, which includes three other graded stakes placings.
Owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, Ventana is out of the Polish Numbers mare Full Figure. The horse, who will break from post 5 under jockey Martin Garcia, was bred in Kentucky by the Mullholland family.
Another seasoned runner in the Maryland Sprint field is Immortal Eyes, a two-time stakes winner at Charles Town Races & Slots. The 6-year-old son of Greatness—Private Eyes, by Private Terms, is seeking a better run this time around at Pimlico. During his last trip there as a 5-year-old, Immortal Eyes was fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths in an allowance contest last April.
The good news for Immortal Eyes, however, is that he has reeled off consecutive wins in his last two outings, the most recent of which was a 4 3/4-length score in the Webb Snyder Stakes at Charles Town. Immortal Eyes set a new track record in that race when he covered 4 1/2 furlongs in a swift :50.09. Trained by Damon Dilodovico for Robert Abbo Racing Stable, Immortal Eyes holds an overall record of 6-5-3 from 22 starts, for earnings of $251,497.
Bred in Florida by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, Immortal Eyes will retain the services of jockey Travis Dunkelberger, who was aboard for his last two victories. The pair will break from post 6.
The other stakes winners in the Maryland Sprint field are Gattopardo and Nathan's H Q. Gattopardo, who is seeking his first victory of 2011, won the 2008 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park and was second in that year’s Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
Nathan’s H Q captured the 2010 restricted New Castle Stakes at Delaware Park and has placed in three other stakes, two of which were this year. The Maryland Sprint will mark the first time racing at Pimlico for both Gattopardo and Nathan’s H G.
$100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III), 3-year-olds and up, six furlongs, race 8, 2:55 p.m.
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. My Cuz C J, Jockey not yet named, 110, K M Cox
2. Heritage Hall, Jockey not yet named, 109, M Shuman
3. Nathan’s H Q, CW Martin, 112, C W Martin
4. Delong Road, J K Court, 112, D W Lukas
5. Ventana, M Garcia, 119, B Baffert
6. Immortal Eyes, T L Dunkelberger, 115, D R Dilodovico
7. China, J R Velazquez, 111, J Good
8. Safety Check, R A Dominguez, 112, A E Goldberg
9. Gattopardo, M Franklin, 113, T J Tullock Jr.