Harpers First Ride Scores Frontrunning Victory In Pimlico Special

MCA Racing Stable’s Harpers First Ride went to the front from the outside post and led throughout in Friday’s 50h running of the $250,000, Grade 3 Pimlico Special, fighting off a bid from 3-5 favorite Owendale and drawing away in deep stretch under Angel Cruz to register his first career graded stakes triumph in his 14th start.

Trained by Claudio Gonzalez, Harpers First Ride – a 4-year-old gelding by Paynter bred in Maryland by Sagamore Farm – covered 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:54.97. His winning margin was two lengths.

Harpers First Ride paid $13 for the win.

Owendale, a three-time Grade 3 winner who finished third behind War of Will in last year’s Preakness at the Baltimore, Md., track, held second after dogging Harpers First Ride throughout under John Velazquez. Cordmaker finished third, with 7-2 second choice  and 2019 Pimlico Special winner Tenfold (third behind Justify in the 2018 Preakness) fourth and Forewarned fifth in the field of seven older runners. Monongahela and Plus Que Parfait were scratched.

Harpers First Ride set moderate fractions of :24.41, :48.41, 1:12.11 and 1:35.94 en route to his final clocking.

“I settled good in the front. I took the lead really easy and slowed it down. Nobody wanted to go so I just took the lead and the horse kept digging in the stretch,” Cruz said. “I just feel so happy and so blessed to be in this position, to work for Claudio and for him to give me all the chances that he gave me. I just take advantage of it and do my best.”

The Pimlico Special was the headliner on an 11-race program that also serves as a preview for the Claiming Crown, offering winners an automatic berth to the 22nd edition of the main event Dec. 5 at Gulfstream Park.

Friday also marked the midpoint of a spectacular three-day Preakness weekend lineup that boasts 16 stakes, nine graded, worth $3.35 million in purses featuring Saturday’s 145th Preakness (G1), the final jewel in a refashioned 2020 Triple Crown, and the 96th renewal of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.

The Pimlico Special winner was coming off a victory in the Sept. 5 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Laurel in which he sat third, then rallied in the stretch. That  was his first stakes victory and fourth win of 2020 in seven starts.

“Every race he gets better and better. He likes what we do with him,” Gonzalez said. “He’s very easy for a trainer, because he’s a relaxed horse. Anything we want to do with him, he does it. He’s a very classy horse. I knew he could do it. He gets more mature every race.”

Harpers First Ride began his career in Kentucky racing for his breeder. He was claimed for $30,000 in his third start, a maiden victory on Sept. 14, 2019, then transferred to the Maryland circuit and the barn of Gonzalez, who has dominated the local training ranks.

Gonzalez has led the overall standings in Maryland since 2017 and owns or shares 13 individual meet titles combined at Pimlico and Laurel Park including 10 of the last 11 dating back to Laurel’s spring 2017 stand. His previous graded-stakes wins came with Fly On Angel in the Charles Town Oaks (G3) Aug. 28 and Chublicious in the 2017 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3).

“I’m so happy and so blessed to be in this position. I work hard with Claudio and we work together. It’s just amazing to work for him,” Cruz said. “It is important. As a team we work hard every day and for Claudio to get this one is special, because this is home.”

The Pimlico Special was created in 1937 by Alfred Vanderbilt, the master of Sagamore Farm, as the first major stakes in the United States set up as an invitational, and was won by Triple Crown champion War Admiral. The following year, he was upset by Seabiscuit in what Sports Illustrated called the “Race of the Century.”

Revived in 1988 by the late Maryland Jockey Club president Frank De Francis, the Special’s illustrious roster of winners includes Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, Citation and Assault and modern-day Horses of the Year Criminal Type, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft and Invasor.

The post Harpers First Ride Scores Frontrunning Victory In Pimlico Special appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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