05/16/2012 12:40PM

Pimlico Special revived and pumped up

Barbara D. Livingston
Alternation, training at Pimlico on Tuesday with Luis Quinonez up, comes off a victory in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap.

BALTIMORE – Trainer Graham Motion thought by choosing to run his Grade 1 winner Toby’s Corner in Friday’s reincarnated Pimlico Special he might be ducking some of the better horses in the handicap division.

Problem is, there appears to be so much depth to the division this year, that the Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special – being run for the first time since 2008 – came up just as tough as any Grade 1 race that will be run later in the year.

[PIMLICO FRIDAY: Watch live – Black-Eyed Susan, Pimlico Special]

Of the nine horses expected to run – Cease was an early scratch – Alternation, Hymn Book, Endorsement, and Yawanna Twist have combined to win six graded events this year. Mission Impazible was a Grade 2 winner last year and Nehro was the Kentucky Derby runner-up a year ago.

“I pointed him for this race because I thought we could duck the heavy heads at Churchill, and this race came up just as tough,” said Motion.

Alternation, trained by Donnie Von Hemel, went 3 for 3 at Oaklawn this winter, including a front-running score in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap. He lost his last three starts as a 3-year-old.

Von Hemel credits his colt’s turnaround to the addition of blinkers, which he first put on Alternation for the first time last October, when he was beaten just a head by Redeemed in the Oklahoma Derby.

“I think he’s developed a little versatility,” said Von Hemel, who trains Alternation for Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable. “The blinkers probably put him up in the race a little more when we started with them last fall.”

In the Oaklawn Handicap, Alternation took advantage of a paceless race to beat Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek by 2 1/2 lengths. Also in that race were Yawanna Twist (third), Hymn Book (fourth), and Nehro (sixth), all of whom are back in here.

With Eighttofasttocatch, Endorsement, and Cherokee Artist in the field, there appears to more speed in the Pimlico Special than there was at Oaklawn. Von Hemel doesn’t seem concerned.

“I think we drew a great post, have a nice run to the turn to look things over and assess it,” said Von Hemel, whose horse will break from post 9 under Luis Quinonez. “He’s a top horse, and I think you’ll see that bear out over the course of the year.”

Hymn Book, Mission Impazible, and Toby’s Corner would also benefit from a lively pace.

Hymn Book defeated Mission Impazible by a nose in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in February before finishing fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap, while Mission Impazible came back to finish a well-beaten second behind loose-on-the lead Nates Mineshaft in the New Orleans Handicap.

Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Hymn Book, said his horse had an “off day” at Oaklawn, while Alternation benefitted from pace scenario and track condition.

“The track was pretty speed-favoring, and he got on a pretty easy lead,” McGaughey said. “Our horse didn’t run that bad, only got beat [3 3/4] lengths.”

Mission Impazible, the 2010 New Orleans Handicap winner, has finished second seven times, five in graded stakes.

“Last time we ran into a horse that was really in tune with the track and ran a super-fast race on a speed-favoring track and we were second-best on the day,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Mission Impazbile.

Toby’s Corner, who won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at 3, finished behind Mission Impazible in the New Orleans. Motion, like Pletcher, also felt the speed-favoring nature of the Fair Grounds on the day compromised his horse’s chances.

“He didn’t run a bad race,” Motion said. “Obviously, it was a little disappointing. I feel like he’s doing great. I feel very good about running him there.”

The Pimlico Special will be race 12 on a 13-race program that begins at noon eastern. It is one of seven stakes on the program and is the first leg of a Pimlico Special/Preakness daily double that can be played for $1 minimum.

It is the final leg of a pick four that begins with race that will have a $200,000 guaranteed pool.

There is a Ladies Day theme to the card, with one race where the horses will be ridden by all retired female jockeys and a three-race jockey challenge for current female riders.

Pimlico Special (G3), Post Time: 5:51 ET Friday

Purse: $300,000; 1 3/16 miles





ML Odds


Toby's Corner

H. Motion

E. Castro




E. Harty

M. Garcia



Hymn Book

C. McGaughey, III

J. Velazquez



Cherokee Artist

J. Robb

V. Santiago




S. Asmussen

C. Nakatani



Mission Impazible

T. Pletcher

J. Castellano



Yawanna Twist

J. Parisella

M. Luzzi




D. Von Hemel

L. Quinonez




T. Keefe

S. Russell



Nicholas Briglia More than 1 year ago
Wide open race. Alternation has to prove that he is more than just an Oaklawn lover. He also has to deal with Mission Impazible, among others. Looking for a closer, maybe Hymn Book. Not in love with him though. Nehro? Wouldn't be shocked by anything in this race.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
One good thing about Dan and Mike they almost always give me my "throwouts". Question whether they ever actual bet their picks , but that's another debate.
Paul Patane More than 1 year ago
I like Nehro, its his second race off the layoff and I know his last race wasnt great, but remember the track was super hard with a "track variant of 6. I'm not a believer of Alternation going 1 3/16 on the front end, I just think Steve Asmussen will have Nehro ready, and don't forget this is only the horses 4th race since last year very good K Derby showing. I think at 8-1 hes super playable in a great value betting event.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do like E. Harty 's horse at 8 to 1. Not sure you will get that at post time. $50 to get $500 would be nice.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
You must be kidding right? This is a G2 field at best. The top 9-10F handicap horses are Game on Dude, Successful Dan, Wise Dan, Ron the Greek, To Honor and Serve.
Gary Ney More than 1 year ago
Grade Stakes are based on purse and mostly on past winners. Since there are no past winners who are currently in racing, they are starting over at Grade III. If they keep this race alive it will take 4 years at best to get to a Grade I ranking.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
I know that. I was referring to David Grening calling this field as tough as any G1 to come this year.
st More than 1 year ago
Grass is Greener--If those horses arent grade 1's running material,,, Who are the horses that are going to make the starting gate for your Grade 1 American dirt races that are currently racing? Sorry there are currently no Curlin-Zenyatta-Ghostzappers to found doesn't mean there shouldn't be Grade one races
st More than 1 year ago
Charlestown throws down a million dollar purse,,finally a grade 2 after a few years,,but Lets be real,,,the grade 1-2-3 doesn't matter at all to the betting public, it only matters to the breeding of the horse. (Nothing worse than a small field 4-5horses Grade 1 race or any grade for that matter) A big purse that leads to a big field of horses of competitive horses is all the gambler should be looking for,,, Leave the fretting about g1-g2-g3 to the breeding snobs
Gary Ney More than 1 year ago
How many Grade III reaces did Zenyatta race in? How many Grade III races did Curlin run in? How many Grade III races did Smarty Jones run in? I could go on.
John Howland More than 1 year ago
Smarty Jones ran in several non-graded stakes.I believe his 1st Gr1 win was the K Derby.As "st" stated,betting wise,who cares.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Don't know where you're stabled but bring one in for this bunch and you better have yer runnin' shoes on.
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately my boy Nehro was sick two months ago. He doesn't appear to be the same horse as he was last year after runnnig 6th last out. His first start thi year was excellent, so being sick means we have to pass on you here Big N!!!
st More than 1 year ago
Getting bored with the gimmicky Ladies day theme at derby,preakness,BC. It's tiresome and patronizing. You can still celebrate women in the horse industry and raise funds for breast cancer without All Filly Cards or yearly series of all female Jockey races. I could be wrong but I think Its overmarketing on behalf of horse racing to market these all filly cards and days. A simple Ladies Day atmosphere at the track would suffice. Maggi Moss, Rosie, Chantel, Linda Rice,,etc,, Females are more mainstream in this sport than any other sport i can think of with direct male/female competition.
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
The friday cards are usually better for the bettors on big stakes days than saturdays are. Last year Breeders Cup friday was great! I hit my 3-race $50 win & place parlay for $4,100. I don't see too many opportunities like that this year so far. But I will take a shot on Agave Kiss, Ben's Cat and Alternation in a parlay firday at PIMLICO!!!