The return of Special after a three-year absence, and the $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) highlighted the People’s Pink Party program that benefited the Maryland Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure on a sun-drenched afternoon at historic Pimlico.
The 13-race program festivities generated a handle of $13,786,798, up 28% from a year ago, when $10,664,681 was wagered.
“What a fantastic way to start the weekend by being up over $3 million in wagering,” said Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas. “Bringing back the Pimlico Special added to excitement of the day and what a race it was. This was just a fabulous card with large, competitive fields. We always thought our partnership with Susan G. Komen was a winner, and days like this prove that it is working.”
After taking over the lead from pacesetter Endorsement in deep stretch, Alternation was quickly joined by Nehro, and the two horses battled nose-to-nose to the wire. A photo finish awarded the victory to Alternation, the 4-1 second-choice in a field of nine horses. Ridden by Luis Quinonez, the son of Distorted Humor ran the 1 3/16-mile stakes in 1:57.60.
Nehro, ridden by Corey Nakatani, finished a length clear of Endorsement and jockey Martin Garcia. Mission Impazible, the 5-2 favorite, closed to finish fourth under Javier Castellano.
The Donnie K. Von Hemel-trained Alternation ($10.20) captured his fourth straight stakes, adding the Pimlico Special to his stakes successes in the Essex, the Razorback (G3) and the Oaklawn Handicaps (G2).
Maryland’s premier racing weekend continues Saturday with the Preakness Day program of a dozen thoroughbred races surrounding the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes. Four of the top five finishers from the Kentucky Derby, including winner I’ll Have Another, are entered in the Preakness. First post for the Preakness Day program is 10:30 a.m., with the Preakness scheduled to go at 6:18 p.m.
Pimlico Special Stakes Quotes
Donnie K. Von Hemel (winning trainer, Alternation) – “Wow! That got a little bit tight there at the end. I didn’t know if we got it or not, but fortunately we got the bob. It looked like that six pounds (he was giving Nehro) was getting to him there at the end.
"I couldn't quite see well enough to call the photo. I was walking down and someone told me they thought we had gotten it. It was a head-bob. The other horse ran a nice race. It was just one of those where he fought long enough to get the job done.
"All the superlatives you want to use, he's that kind of horse. He's a top horse, and I think he's in the process of proving that right now. He beat a nice field at Oaklawn and a nice field here. He's top of the list.
"I really thought the first time by the grandstand, they were going a little slower than that. When they put up the 23-and-3 and we were starting to ease off the pace a little, and the 46-and-change and we were 3-4 back, I felt like we were probably in a good enough spot at that point. Then everybody kind of bunched up at the quarter-pole turning for home, and it was a real horse race.
"It hadn't been run in a while, but it was as good a field of horses as I think they could have hoped for first time back.
"I think the Foster was probably the race we were looking at the most. I think the Suburban's coming up. Let's just enjoy this and we'll worry about that in about a week."
Luis Quinonez (winning jockey, Alternation) – “Everything went great, especially when you get there first. There were a couple horses making the pace. We put him where he was comfortable and we waited them out and rode hard to the wire.”
Steve Asmussen (trainer, Nehro, 2nd) –”It’s good to see him back. He was very unlucky to lose the head-bob like that. But he ran great.”
Corey Nakatani (jockey, Nehro, 2nd) – “Today our game plan was to stay a little closer. I was trying not to use him too much. We were ahead a step before and a step after. Unfortunately we missed.”
Eoin Harty (trainer, Endorsement, 3rd) – “He ran hard. I am very, very impressed. I was proud of his effort and I thought he’d shake loose, but they never gave him a break. The half-mile in :46 kind of did him in. but he got beat by less than a length, but it was a good run.”
Martin Garcia (jockey, Endorsement, 3rd) – “The trip was OK. I got him in a spot to win but he just didn’t have enough at the end.”
Todd Pletcher (trainer, Mission Impazible, 4th) – “Javier made a decision on the first turn to let him settle in. He got shuffled farther back than we originally intended. He shows up and runs hard every time. It’s unfortunate he hasn’t been able to win one of these big ones, but I think he has a big one in him.”
Javier Castellano (jockey, Mission Impazible, 4th) – “We got stuck a bit wide and weren’t able to run our race. He came, but never had great position. He ran a good race.”
Robert Medina (assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey, Hymn Book, 5th) – “Johnny said he stumbled a couple of times leaving the gate. When he gathered him up, he got squeezed out of there. For some reason today he reacted to the dirt hitting him and he got himself a lot farther back than we would have liked.”
John Velazquez (jockey, Hymn Book, 5th) – “I really think he was not ready today. The last time he ran a really big number, so I thought he was going to be comfortable with these horses today. We broke well and we were sitting behind the speed, but when they took off, he gave me everything he had, but they were just better than him today.”
Mike Luzzi (jockey, Yawanna Twist , 6th) – “He broke well and sharp but it was probably asking him to do a little too much with the distance. He ran his heart out.”
Graham Motion (trainer, Toby’s Corner, 7th) – “It looked like he was making a nice move. Eddie said he got in tight a little bit. Then, he got a little bit intimidated and he was kind of through after that. It’s a little disappointing.”
Eddie Castro (jockey, Toby’s Corner, 7th) – “We had no real problems in the race. There is not much I can say. It just wasn’t his day today.”
Jerry Robb (trainer, Cherokee Artist, 8th) – “We could have been a little closer. He was either outclassed or he just bounced.”
Victor Santiago (jockey, Cherokee Artist, 8th) – “Unfortunately, I had a rough trip. I had to go wide on the first turn and wide on the second turn and that sure didn’t help him much.”
Sheldon Russell (jockey, Eighttofasttocatch, 9th) – “I had a great trip, but he wasn’t able to save any ground. When it was time to go, he had nothing left. They were just a little better.”