05/19/2016 10:56AM

Salutos Amigos may be vulnerable favorite in Maryland Sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Salutos Amigos (left) has done his best racing at Aqueduct, but is only 4 for 29 elsewhere.

With seven entrants, the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint has the shortest field on the 14-race Preakness card at Pimlico. That doesn’t make it easy, though, as Salutos Amigos, Cinco Charlie, and Always Sunshine each will have their share of supporters.

The six-furlong Maryland Sprint is the first of eight stakes on the program, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The Maryland Sprint goes as race 5 at 12:51 p.m.

Salutos Amigos will be favored, but there are reasons to tread carefully. An Aqueduct horse for course, he is 8 for 10 at the Big A and 4 for 29 elsewhere. This will be his first start at Pimlico.

Salutos Amigos ran well two weeks ago, closing from seventh to finish fourth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. Since trainer David Jacobson took over the training of Salutos Amigos in early 2014, he has run him back on short rest only twice.


Salutos Amigos finished seventh in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, seven days after winning the Bold Ruler at Aqueduct. He won a first-level allowance at Aqueduct in April 2014, eight days after winning a $50,000 starter race.

Cinco Charlie, trained by Steve Asmussen, may have the best early speed in the race and will not be easy to reel in if unchallenged on the front end.

Always Sunshine, trained by Ned Allard, has steadily improved since late last year and comes into this race with three wins in his last four starts. His lone loss during that period came when he finished second to Salutos Amigos in the Grade 3 Tom Fool at Aqueduct. Salutos Amigos finished like a rocket that day to run past Always Sunshine, who had traffic issues in the stretch.

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Always Sunshine was stuck at Parx Racing during the recent equine herpesvirus quarantine but did win a third-level optional race by 11 1/2 lengths there, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

“I’ve had some good sprinters the last 40-odd years, but nothing like this,” said Allard, a winner of 2,662 races. “He’s feeling good about himself. His confidence is high.”

Maryland Sprint, Race 5

Key Contenders

Always Sunshine, by West Acre

Last 3 Beyers: 102-98-96

◗ Frankie Pennington, the current leading rider at Parx who topped the standings there in 2015, 2014, and 2006, has the mount.

Salutos Amigos, by Salute the Sarge

Last 3 Beyers: 100-102-104

◗ John Velazquez picks up the ride from Cornelio Velasquez, who has six mounts at Belmont Park on Saturday. Velasquez has ridden Salutos Amigos in nine of his last 13 starts.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 7 Salutos Amigos. Trainer David Jacobson is 26-1-3-2 with a $0.65 ROI over the past five years in graded stakes outside of New York. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Cinco Charlie, by Indian Charlie

Last 3 Beyers: 90-103-82

◗ Didn’t run to his ability in two starts at Oaklawn Park after returning from a layoff but was strong in winning the Duncan Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds in between those races.

Sonny Inspired, by Artie Schiller

Last 3 Beyers: 93-92-93

◗ The distance of the Charles Town Classic was too much for him, but he was in the best form of his career prior to that race. Expect him to rebound at six furlongs.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 1 All Star Red. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez is 18-5-1-5 with a $2.13 ROI over the past five years in dirt sprint graded stakes with last-out winners.  Click for more details. Mike Hogan