WinStar Farm and China Horse Club, two of the principals that own Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Justify in a partnership, look get their Preakness weekend off on the right foot Friday afternoon when they take two shots at the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) with a pair of four-year-olds they also own in partnerships, One Liner and Hedge Fund.
On the classic trail prior to being sidelined following a victory in the 2017 Southwest (G3), One Liner suffered his only career setback in his February 9 comeback attempt at Gulfstream, but rebounded last month with a re-rallying victory in a third-level allowance at Keeneland.
Hedge Fund, the beaten favorite in the $100,000 Sir Barton on Preakness Day last year, captured the $300,000 Essex H. at Oaklawn over Untrapped two starts back, but failed to contend for the lead in the subsequent Oaklawn H. (G2) after hopping at the start and finished far behind in the field of 11.
Both colts are trained by Todd Pletcher, who trained the WinStar-owned Revolutionary and Commissioner to consecutive wins in the 1 3/16-mile Special in 2014-15.
Something Awesome, the “house horse” for the Pimlico Special, is owned by Frank Stronach, who won the race a year ago with Shaman Ghost. The veteran seven-year-old has won five of six since joining trainer Jose Corrales, including the Charles Town Classic (G2) last time.
“He’s doing well. He came back good and the horse looks like he just likes to run. He came back and ate up everything and was ready to go the next day,” Corrales said. “We were thinking to run him in the Pimlico Special and hoped he would perform as well as he has done. He’s not a horse that changes too much. You just have to do the same thing. If he can keep his fitness and the track is right for him that day, he will perform good.”
Also exiting the Charles Town Classic is Afleet Willy, who weakened late to fourth after racing close to the pace. The five-year-old won three stakes at Laurel from November through February.
“At Charles Town he ran big he came back so good, that’s why we decided to run him right back,” trainer Claudio Gonzalez said.
Irish War Cry won the Wood Memorial (G2) and Holy Bull (G2) last year and also finished second in the Belmont S. (G1), but has struggled of late finishing out of the money in three of his past four starts.
Untrapped captured the Oklahoma Derby (G3) last fall over subsequent Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Battle of Midway, but has primarily settled for minor awards in a plethora of other graded stakes. He set a pressured pace in the Oaklawn H. last time before wilting to third, more than 10 lengths behind the winning City of Light.
Other graded winners in the field include recent Ben Ali (G3) scorer Rated R Superstar and Excelsior (G3) upsetter Discreet Lover, who ran sixth in the Charles Town Classic.
The $150,000 Allaire duPont Distaff (G3), for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, is the last of seven stakes and the 13th of 14 races on the marathon program.
Blue Prize, who’s captured the Falls City H. (G2) and $200,000 Top Flight Invitational in her past three starts, faces Verve’s Tale for a third time since August. Blue Prize upset the odds-on Verve’s Tale in the Top Flight last time, but in their first meeting at Saratoga last summer Verve’s Tale got the better of Blue Prize by a nose in the $100,000 Summer Colony.
Fuhriously Kissed, third to the above pair in the Summer Colony, crashed the Trifecta at odds of 56-1 in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn last time in her first start since being claimed for $62,5000 in March.
Hogy figures to be one of the stronger favorites on Friday’s card when he faces nine others in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at five furlongs.
Though he stretched out successfully to take the one-mile Canadian Turf (G3) two back, Hogy’s bread and butter has been turf sprints, of which he’s won prolifically in Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, and New York.
Rocket Heat, third in the 2016 edition of the Jim McKay, is also in the lineup along with Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint runner-up Oak Bluffs, Nearctic (G2) winner Field of Courage, and the untested Imprimis, who has captured all three career starts at Gulfstream for trainer Joe Orseno.
The $100,000 Skipat, a six-furlong dash for fillies and mares, is headlined by Vertical Oak, who won the Prioress (G2) and Miss Preakness (G3) last season and might benefit from a potential off track, and Barbara Fritchie (G2) heroine Ms Locust Point.