If Harpers First Ride can score a repeat victory in Friday’s $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3), he’d join Hall of Famer Challedon (1939-1940), a fellow Maryland-bred, as the only two-time winner of the historic event. Contested over the same 1 3/16-mile trip as the next day’s Preakness (G1), the Pimlico Special is one of three stakes open to older horses on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day card, along with the $150,000 Allaire duPont Distaff S. (G3) and the $100,000 The Very One S.
Pimlico Special (G3) – Race 12 (5:12 p.m. ET)
Harpers First Ride captured a pandemic-delayed Pimlico Special in gutsy frontrunning fashion on Oct. 2. Then trained by Claudio Gonzalez, the Paynter gelding was in peak form last fall, with daylight wins in the Deputed Testamony, Richard W. Small, and Native Dancer at his Laurel base. Only a second in the Maryland Million Classic interrupted his winning skein.
Subsequently sold to GMP Stables, Arnold Bennewith, and Cypress Equine, Harpers First Ride made an inauspicious debut for his new connections when eased in the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup (G1). He moved to the Robertino Diodoro barn and ran twice at Oaklawn Park, tiring to fourth in the March 13 Essex H. and third in an April 11 allowance.
Diodoro told Pimlico publicity that Harpers First Ride is over foot trouble that had been compromising him.
“We had some issues with his feet, and we got those fixed up,” Diodoro said. “To be honest, this is the best he’s been doing since we’ve had him. He’s doing really well. He worked really good at Churchill. Ever since we got some different shoes on him, the last couple of weeks he’s been like a completely different horse. We’re actually pretty excited about next Friday.”
Drawn in post 7 with David Cohen, Harpers First Ride must fend off 10 rivals to make Pimlico Special history. A few of those opponents have similarly forward styles.
That race shape could suit off-the-pace types. Fearless, the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) hero, just missed by a half-length in the Oaklawn Park H. (G2) for Todd Pletcher. Prioritize, third in the Woodward (G1) and fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) when last seen, hopes to continue his progressive profile.
Last year’s Withers (G3) winner Max Player is still looking to return to the form of his third in the 2020 Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1). Unplaced in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness, as well as the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup, he might find a return to this level helpful. Fellow Triple Crown trail veteran Enforceable hopes that his recent third in the New Orleans Classic (G2) is a harbinger.
Well-bred Modernist, winner of a division of the 2020 Risen Star (G2), comes off a convincing display in the April 3 Excelsior (G3). The Bill Mott pupil figures to use his tactical speed for Junior Alvarado on the rail. Mike Maker’s Last Judgment wired both the Sunshine Classic and the Challenger (G3), beating Modernist in the latter. Most recently runner-up in the March 27 Ghostzapper (G3), Last Judgment is parked in the far outside post 11, so Jose Ortiz is likely to ask him early. He’s joined by stablemate Treasure Trove, a half-brother to Preakness contender Rombauer, who exits a close fifth in the Ben Ali (G3).
Rounding out the field are Cordmaker, third in the past two runnings of the Pimlico Special; Forewarned, fifth a year ago; and Alwaysmining, a Maryland celebrity at two and three who is trying to recapture his former glory.
Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) – Race 8 (3:07 p.m. ET)
A competitive cast of eight distaffers entered the 1 1/8-mile Allaire duPont Distaff.
Beldame (G2) heroine Horologist concluded 2020 with a ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), but made a winning reappearance in the April 10 Top Flight at Aqueduct. The Mott mare justified even-money favoritism by overtaking Mrs. Danvers, who had romped in the Comely (G3) at the same track and 1 1/8-mile distance. Also re-opposing is Top Flight third Lucky Stride, previously an odds-on winner of both the Jan. 16 Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay Downs and the Feb. 20 Nellie Morse at Laurel over Landing Zone.
Pletcher’s Spice Is Nice looked well on her way to playing a prominent role in the sophomore filly division last season, only to flop in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Alabama (G1). The Curlin blueblood could be ready to make an impact now, if her Keeneland comeback score is any indication.
Brad Cox is double-handed with Getridofwhatailesu and Dreamalildreamofu. Getridofwhatailesu emerged as a stakes player at the Oaklawn meet. After scoring in the Pippin, Getridofwhatailesu followed up with a third in the Azeri (G2) and fourth in the Apple Blossom (G1). Dreamalildreamofu steps up to graded company after two straight wins, an off-the-turf allowance at Fair Grounds and the Latonia on Turfway’s Tapeta.
Another Broad, third in last year’s duPont that was shifted to Laurel Dec. 26, was no factor in the Bayakoa (G3) and Apple Blossom at Oaklawn this term.
The Very One – Race 9 (3:38 p.m. ET)
The five-furlong turf dash has attracted a dozen fillies and mares, led by Gotta Go Mo who brings a three-race winning streak into her stakes debut. Other contenders include Australian Group 2-placed Victory Kingdom, runner-up in Gulfstream’s Abundantia; Dixieincandyland and Catch a Bid, separated by a head when one-two in a Keeneland allowance; Caravel, a two-time stakes winner on the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs and most recently third in the License Fee at Aqueductl and last-out Aqueduct allowance scorer Go Go Shoes. Epic Idea, entered with no rider listed, has not raced since landing the Maryland Million Ladies over 1 1/8 grassy miles Oct. 24.