05/13/2014 12:26PM

Preakness: Pimentel looking to close with Kid Cruz

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Julian Pimentel and Kid Cruz win the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park on March 8.

BALTIMORE – Regarding jockey Julian Pimentel’s first Triple Crown mount, the memories are all about the experience, not the result.

Pimentel rode Norman Asbjornson in the 2011 Preakness for Maryland trainer Christopher Grove. The colt, off a fourth-place finish in the Wood Memorial, was a 42-1 shot and ran like it, stalking the pace for half the race before fading to 11th.

“Going into the far turn, I started asking him, and he didn’t have anything,” Pimentel recalled. “He was a longshot, but you never know. The result wasn’t great, but it was a good experience, very exciting. Everyone wants to ride those kind of races.”

Now Pimentel, a 33-year-old who got his start riding at bush tracks in his native Colombia, is getting to ride in another one of those big races. He has the call on Kid Cruz in the Preakness, the only locally based rider with a mount in the biggest race on by far the biggest day of the Pimlico meeting.

That Pimentel rides Kid Cruz is somewhat random. In the North American phase of his career, which dates to 2000, he has ridden only six horses for Kid Cruz’s trainer, Linda Rice. Pimentel rode an allowance horse to victory during the Laurel Park meet this past winter, and when Kid Cruz needed a rider for the Private Terms Stakes there March 8, Pimentel was open and got the call. He won the Private Terms, kept the mount for a win in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 19, and earned enough confidence from the colt’s connections to stick for the Preakness, too.

::DRF Live: Reporting and insight from the Preakness draw 6-7 p.m. ET on Wednesday

Pimentel has won only five graded stakes from 91 rides during his career, but he is the jockey of local legend Ben’s Cat, about the only horse he still rides for trainer King Leatherbury.

“Riding a horse like that definitely helps a lot,” Pimentel said. “You just hope it works out. Riding stakes, people notice your name when they’re looking for a rider.”

Pimentel is looking forward to the sheer excitement of his second Preakness, but this time, he hopes to play a greater part in the outcome. Pimentel is the Preakness jockey with the most local experience, and Kid Cruz is the only horse with a race over the track.

In the Private Terms, Kid Cruz dropped almost 20 lengths behind the early leaders, and while he was closer early in the Tesio, it still took him almost 51 seconds to run the first half-mile. At that clip, Kid Cruz could find himself far behind what looks like a hot Preakness pace. Pimentel’s hope is that as the speed starts coming back, he’ll be moving forward.

“If they go that fast, he’s got a nice kick,” Pimentel said. “From the half-mile pole to the finish, he’s going to be rolling.”