Updated on 09/17/2011 2:37PM

Southern Image quite Special

Southern Image, under Victor Espinoza, secures his fifth consecutive victory, beating Midway Road by 1 1/4 lengths in the Pimlico Special.

BALTIMORE - by 1 1/4 lengths over Midway Road.

It was the fifth consecutive victory for Southern Image, who was coming off a pair of wins in $1 million stakes, including the Santa Anita Handicap. This win, his first outside of Southern California, puts him in the upper tier of handicap horses along with Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro.

"I'd say we'd have to be one of the top three," said trainer Michael Machowsky. "Those two are pretty good horses and I look forward to running against them somewhere down the line."

A bit of a high-strung horse, Southern Image was totally professional on Friday.

Under Victor Espinoza, Southern Image broke sharply and made the lead through the stretch the first time. Going into the first turn, Espinoza was content to let Midway Road, under Robby Albarado, take the lead. Espinoza had a snug hold of Southern Image, who stayed within a length of Midway Road through six furlongs run in 1:11.88.

Southern Image drew within one-half length of Midway Road around the turn, and gradually drew on even terms entering the stretch. The two ran together to inside the eighth pole before Southern Image gradually pulled away. Midway Road, held second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Bowman's Band.

"That was quite a stretch duel," Espinoza said. "I didn't know when we would go by, but I had confidence we would. I thought I had much the best horse and that's why I didn't want to move too soon."

After Bowman's Band, the order of finish was Evening Attire, Dynever, and Ole Faunty.

Trainer Barclay Tagg scratched Funny Cide, last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, from the race because he didn't want to run him in the hot weather. At post time, the temperature was 86 degrees and the humidity was a comfortable 46 percent.

Southern Image ($5.80) covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.89.

"I think it was his best effort," Machowsky said. "He's still going forward and I don't think we've hit the bottom of him yet."

Trainer Neil Howard, who won this race last year with Mineshaft, was pleased and frustrated with Midway Road's second-place finish.

"It's so hard to win these races," Howard said. "He was trying to come back there at the end; he ran so hard."

Dynever, the 8-5 favorite, was never a factor as he finished fifth, beaten 11 1/4 lengths.

"He was moving up okay on the backside," jockey Corey Nakatani said. "And then when we got to the turn he started swimming. They were going into it eight or nine inches. This [track] is ten times deeper than Belmont."

Machowsky said if everything goes perfect the next couple of weeks he would run Southern Image back in the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 12 at Churchill Downs.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman