Historic 1 3/16-Mile Event Precedes Black-Eyed Susan (G2)
BALTIMORE, Md. – West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, Bobby Flay and Woodford Racing’s First Captain came with a steady run down the center of the track and stuck his head out at the wire to edge favored Vindictive in a thrilling edition of the historic $300,000 Pimlico Special Friday at Pimlico Race Course.
The 52nd running of the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special for 3-year-olds and up was the fifth of six stakes, four graded, worth $1.05 million in purses on a sensational 14-race Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Day program headlined by the 98th edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies.
First Captain ($12) gave both jockey Luis Saez and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey their first wins in the Pimlico Special. Since 1988, McGaughey had run fifth in 1998 with Draw and in 2012 with Hymn Book, and fourth in 2015 with Top Billing.
The winning time was 1:56.24 over a fast main track.
First Captain settled in fifth, given clear run by Saez in the five-path as Untreated coasted through a quarter-mile in 24.99 seconds chased by 17-1 longshot Workin On a Dream. Vindictive, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., saved ground in third along the rail with Excellorator tracking outside in fourth.
The half went in 49.80 and six furlongs in 1:14.27 with Untreated still leading the way. Vindictive ranged up on his Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate once straightened for home and was able to forge a short lead following a 1:38.46 mile. First Captain was looming right behind and Saez had to steer the 4-year-old colt around Vindictive when he came out slightly in mid-stretch but was able to sustain his momentum and get up in time.
Vindictive held second by 1 ¼ lengths over Untreated, who was 7 ¼ lengths in front of Workin On a Dream in fourth followed by Mohaafeth, Treasure Trove, Mischief Afoot, Excellorator, Capocostello and Forewarned.
First Captain, a $1.5 million yearling purchase at Saratoga in 2019, went unraced at 2 before reeling off three straight wins to open his career last year capped by a 1 ¾-length triumph in the one-mile Dwyer (G3). He was given the rest of 2021 off after finishing third in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin in July at Saratoga, returning with an optional claiming victory Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park. The son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin entered the Pimlico Special having run last of seven in the seven-furlong Carter (G1) April 9 at Aqueduct.
The Pimlico Special was created in 1937 by Alfred Vanderbilt, the master of Sagamore Farm, as the first major stakes in the United States set up as an invitational and was won by Triple Crown champion War Admiral. The following year, War Admiral was upset by Seabiscuit in what Sports Illustrated called the ‘Race of the Century.’
Revived in 1988 by late Maryland Jockey Club president Frank De Francis, the Special’s illustrious roster of winners also includes Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, Citation and Assault, and modern-day Horses of the Year Criminal Type, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft and Invasor.
$300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) Quotes
Winning trainer, Shug McGaughey, First Captain, (By phone): “It wasn’t surprising, by any means. He had trained well. The Carter was a puzzler. All his other races were good; he’s won five out of seven now with a third in a listed stakes. We were anxious to get him around two turns.”
“I debated on the blinkers last year after the Curlin, but we didn’t get that far. We trained him in them here [at Belmont Park] and we liked what we saw. I saw him gallop here the other morning before he shipped and my thought was, ‘If he runs the way he gallops, he’s going to be pretty tough.’ Obviously, he did.”
“I didn’t want him up on the pace. I thought that one of the problems in the Carter was that maybe we were laying a little too close and he didn’t have that kick. I wanted him back a little bit. It’s going to be a little bit easier for him when he does get a pace. We’ll just have to see from there.
Terry Finley (West Point Thoroughbreds), First Captain: “That’s a good field that he beat. He is that kind of horse where he takes a little bit of time. The favorite went by him and kind of pinched him a little bit, and I said, ‘Now we got to get running to see if we’re good enough.’ And he was. I think he got very comfortable in the race and when they do that, they give you the confidence that they are going to go on with it. I’m happy.”
Winning jockey Luis Saez, First Captain: “Oh, man, they [blinkers] helped him a lot. At the three-eighths, the favorite came out, pushed him a little out. I thought we were done at that point. But I kept riding, and he gave me that kind of move. Man, at the top of the stretch, when he saw the clear, he just kept coming.
“I was in like fourth, behind and a little outside, trying to be out, because that’s the best way for him to make his move.”
“Probably, he wanted to go a little bit early [before being equipped with blinkers]. I broke and I just left him alone. I didn’t try to rush him or do anything with him, and he did great.”
“When he gave me that turn of foot, he was coming. He got me there on time. Today he proved he’s a pretty nice horse. Shug really likes him. He called me and told me, ‘Luis, I like that horse, so ride him with confidence.’ And he did great.”
Amelia Green, Assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, Vindictive, 2nd, Untreated, 3rd: “He [Vindictive] ran good. He looked like he bobbled at the start, otherwise I think he would have been right there with the other horse. There was just no pace in the race. There was no pace at all. I wish they had run a little bit quicker, actually.”
“I was surprised no one tried to go with him [Untreated]. There really was no pace at all. To go 1:14-and-1 for six furlongs, I mean that’s pretty slow in a Grade 3. Anyone that’s on the lead in 1:14, there’s really not any excuses if you don’t get home. They both (Vindictive and Untreated) look OK so far, so we’ll reassess and see.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Vindictive, 2nd: “He stumbled a little bit at the start, but he was fine. He was moving great. I was letting him do his thing. He responded very well. He had perfect position, made the lead. The other horse just got me. He fought back but it was too late.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, Untreated, 3rd: “It was too bad the two horses beat us at the end. Our trip was perfect. He broke to the lead. There was no other speed, and he did everything right. He was just third best today.”