05/13/2008 11:00PM

Sir Whimsey wouldn't mind mud


BALTIMORE - Jimmy Toner says he can remember shipping a few horses from his New York base to Pimlico for a couple of turf stakes, but the 67-year-old trainer doesn't recall ever running a horse on this historic track's dirt course.

"I didn't know they even had a dirt course," Toner joked Wednesday from his Belmont Park office.

Toner hopes to make a splash with his first dirt starter here on Friday when he sends out Sir Whimsey in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special. Sir Whimsey is one of several contenders in what appears to be a wide-open 41st running of the Pimlico Special. Maryland Jockey Club officials brought this race back off a one-year hiatus, though the purse was slashed in half to $250,000.

The Pimlico Special, which is part of a daily double wager with Saturday's Preakness, heads a 13-race card that begins at 12:15 p.m. Eastern and includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan and the Grade 3, $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes, both for 3-year-old fillies. ESPN2 will provide coverage of the card beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Sir Whimsey, a Virginia-bred son of Jump Start, had a productive winter in south Florida, winning a second-level allowance race and taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap at the Pimlico Special distance of 1 3/16 miles. Both of those victories came after Toner removed the blinkers from Sir Whimsey's equipment.

"He was getting too aggressive and sharp with the blinkers," Toner said.

Sir Whimsey is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Ben Ali run over Keeneland's Polytrack. Toner said he didn't think Sir Whimsey accelerated over the Polytrack as well as he has on dirt.

Sir Whimsey has run well over wet tracks and there is rain in the forecast for Friday. Former Maryland kingpin Edgar Prado seeks his first Pimlico Special win aboard Sir Whimsey.

A. P. Arrow, the 122-pound highweight, could go off favored. He won the Skip Away and Clark handicaps last year and finished second in the Grade 1 Donn in February before finishing fourth to Curlin in the Dubai World Cup in March.

"He ran well," trainer Todd Pletcher said of A. P. Arrow's Dubai effort. "He was obviously no match for Curlin. If we were in with the goal to try and finish second maybe we could've been, but we kept him closer to the pace than he wants to be, and he ran hard like he always does."

A. P. Arrow has a win and a second over wet tracks. Ramon Dominguez rides from post 4.

Gottcha Gold has won three of his last four starts over dirt, his lone loss a runner-up finish to Corinthian in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile over a sloppy Monmouth Park strip last October.

He came from just off the pace in winning the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap in March. This will be his first start beyond 1 1/8 miles. C.C. Lopez rides from post 2.

"I'm not concerned about the distance," trainer Eddie Plesa said. "The whole thing will be the pace and how it sets up. Chucky's back on the horse and he knows the horse, that's a big plus. I expect him to run a big race. He's coming into the race as good as he can be."

Grasshopper, second in last year's Travers, runs back just 16 days after finishing second in the Westchester at Belmont.

"We like the way the race is coming up; there's enough speed in there if all goes well he'll be a little further back," trainer Neil Howard said. "We think he has done real well since the Westchester and his two-turn races have all been very, very good."

Temporary Saint is a live longshot in here for trainer Bruce Levine. He comes off a front-running victory in the Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct, but Levine thought he might have even run better when he came from off the pace winning a third-level allowance race over Aqueduct's inner track.

John Velazquez rides from the outside post.

Student Council, winner of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic last year; Wanderin Boy, second to Invasor in this race in 2006; Ryan's for Real; and Xchanger complete the field.