The Friday before Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course is highlighted by the historic $500,000 Pimlico Special (G1). The race was made famous by the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, and annually features some of the best older horses competing over the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles. In this year's edition, a compact field of just five went to post before a crowd of 24,429. Funny Cide scratched out of the race, instead entering in Saturday's William Donald Schaefer Handicap. Ben Ali Stakes winner Wanderin Boy was sent off as the 4-5 favorite, with Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Harlington the 2-1 second choice.
Jockey Javier Castellano took the favorite to the front right away and set a slow pace of 24.07, 47.48, 1:10.88, and 1:35.35, while 7-1 shot Invasor stalked him out three wide just a length off. Wanderin Boy drew away to a 3-length advantage with a furlong to go, but he began to tire as Invasor was just hitting his best stride. Invasor drew even with Wanderin Boy with a 1/16 of a mile to go, and shook him off late to prevail by 1 1/4 length in a time of 1:54.40 over the fast main track. It was a long 3 3/4 length back to 5-1 shot West Virginia in third, while Harlington finished fourth.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin leads Invasor into the winner's circle after the Pimlico Special. McLaughlin said, "He did surprise me a bit. We liked him, but when you're up against these type horses, you don't know where you stand. So I'm pleasantly surprised. When he ducked to the inside, that's when he started running. I thought we were going to be a good second there for a minute, but he just kept running on."
Invasor with his flowers and winner's blanket. Winning jockey Ramon Dominguez said, "I was pretty impressed not only because he won the race, but the way he did it. To come off the bridle and to be able to regroup and win the race shows signs of a lot of ability and quality."
Pimlico CEO Joe DeFrancis (left) presents the Pimlico Special trophy to jockey Ramon Dominguez and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Second place finisher and beaten favorite Wandering Boy in the post parade. His trainer Nick Zito said, "This is a very tough beat. This is one of the toughest losses I've ever lost as a trainer. He didn't do anything wrong. The jock rode him perfect, he just got beat. He beat the other horses. He beat Todd's (two). It looks like you're going to win the race, and then (you lose). You always worry about (the Shadwell Stable's) horses. They've got some of the best horses in the world."
Third place finisher West Virginia in the post parade. His trainer Todd Pletcher said, "We got into a good spot (with West Virginia) with a good trip. When we made our move at the eighth-pole, we got cut off. There was just no pace."
Triple Crown quick links:
Top Kentucky Derby Contenders - my list of the top horses headed to the Derby with profiles for each with photos, stats, and link to more info like past performances and pedigree.
Analyzing the top 2013 Kentucky Derby contenders - My annual analysis of the top contenders to try and select a winner by matching each to the profile of a Kentucky Derby winner using many of the more popular angles and statistical trends. This year there were is a 3-way tie for the top spot: Goldencents, Normandy Invasion, and Overanalyze.
2013 Kentucky Derby And Oaks Security - New enhanced stricter rules will be enforced this year. Be sure to read the rules as many have changed and more things are banned. There will still be magnetic wand searches of all patrons and many things are no longer allowed. Check here to make sure you don't bring anything they will confiscate.
Review: Triple Crown Handicapper 2013 - by Jim Mazur. Includes lots of stats for all 3 races and explains how to use a system of statistically derived negative angles to eliminate the "bad" picks.
Review: Kentucky Derby Greatest Moments - Commemorative DVD from Churchill Downs with video from 27 different runnings along with interviews, photos, and historical info. Definitely recommended for any racing fan!
Review: Churchill Downs - America's Most Historic Racetrack by Kimberly Gatto. An entertaining and informative account of the history of the track and it's most famous race, the Kentucky Derby, with lots of photos. Definitely recommended.