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2023 Pimlico Special Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Law Professor, Rattle N Roll Set To Square Off
Rattle N Roll (Matt Wooley/Equisport Photos for Eclipse Sportswire)

2023 Pimlico Special Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Law Professor, Rattle N Roll Set To Square Off

Vinny from Real Dynasty Picks previews the 2023 Pimlico Special Stakes (G3) from Pimlico, then gives his top picks & long shots. Big recent stakes winners Law Professor & Rattle N Roll are set to square off, but could another horse pull an upset? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Lucky Seven Stable’s Grade 1-winning millionaire Rattle N Roll, having won at the distance in his previous start, will go after his sixth career stakes victory and fourth in graded company in the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) Friday, May 19 at Pimlico Race Course.

The 53rd running of the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special, on the eve of the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), is one of six stakes, three graded, worth $1 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program co-headlined by the 99th running of the $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.

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Trained by Ken McPeek, who won the 2020 Preakness with filly Swiss Skydiver, 4-year-old Rattle N Roll exits a 1 ¼-length victory in the April 22 Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland. It was his sixth win from 16 lifetime starts at seven different racetracks, pushing his bankroll to $1.21 million.

The connections considered waiting for the 1 1/8-mile Blame (G3) June 3 at Churchill Downs but instead opted for the Special, McPeek’s first since running fifth in 2018 with Rated R Superstar. He also finished third with Tejano Run in 1997.

“He’s a beast at a mile and three-sixteenths,” McPeek said. “That’s the main reason we looked at it. We were originally looking at the Blame, but I decided to go ahead and put him in the Pimlico Special because of the distance.”

Rattle N Roll became a Grade 1 winner in his stakes debut, the 2021 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, in his 2-year-old finale. He won three times in 10 starts at 3, all in stakes – the Oklahoma Derby (G3), St. Louis Derby and American Derby. He returned to the winner’s circle in the Ben Ali after opening this season with a fourth in the 1 1/8-mile New Orleans Classic (G2) March 25 at Fair Grounds.

Flavien Prat will ride Rattle N Roll from Post 2 as the 126-pound topweight in a field of eight.

“He’s all systems go,” McPeek said.

Among the competition for Rattle N Roll are fellow graded-stakes winners Clapton and Law Professor.

Arindel’s homebred Clapton comes out of a determined half-length victory over Chilean Group 1 winner O’Connor in the 1 1/16-mile Ghostzapper (G3) April 1 at his home course of Gulfstream Park, where he became a stakes winner in the one-mile Gil Campbell Memorial Handicap against fellow Florida-breds last fall.

Law Professor, bred and owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stable, captured an off-the-turf edition of the Santa Anita Mathis Mile (G2) in December 2021 for previous trainer Mike McCarthy. The 5-year-old Constitution gelding joined trainer Rob Atras last summer, and he won the one-mile, 70-yard Tapit in September on the grass at Kentucky Downs off a five-month layoff.

“He’d been at WinStar Farm and they sent him to me. We were training down at Belmont during the Saratoga meet and we kind of pointed toward that race at Kentucky Downs. He’d been training great all summer, but I wasn’t really 100 percent sure what to expect and he ran great,” Atras said. “It was a pretty thrilling victory, especially there. Kentucky Downs is such a cool place. You never know how they’re going to handle that surface, but it was really great to win first time out with him.”

In his subsequent start Law Professor ran second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by multiple Grade 1 winner Life Is Good, in the Woodward (G1) at Aqueduct before running fifth to Cody’s Wish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). This year, Law Professor has sandwiched wins in the Queen’s College and Excelsior, both going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct, around a third in the Feb. 18 Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

“He ran great in the Excelsior. He’s really done good over that track and the distance. It seems like two turns, a mile and an eighth right around that range is really good for him,” Atras said. “He’s got such a high cruising speed and he just kind of ran them off their feet the other day. We’re hoping for something like that on Friday.

“He’s definitely run against some top caliber horses. He’s a pretty nice horse. We’re hoping he can handle the competition on Friday and the surface and all that,” he added. “He seems to run well on any surface, so that’s encouraging. He’s been around and he won on the turf, so he’s a pretty versatile horse. He’s pretty neat.”

Manny Franco, up for his two stakes wins this year, gets the return call from Post 5 at 122 pounds.

“We’ve kind of learned different things about him every time we’ve run him. I think he likes to run kind of near the lead, but he’s very versatile. If the pace is fast he can sit back, but if it’s just kind of an average pace he can be right on top of it,” Atras said. “I think Manny’s really gotten along with him good in a couple starts [together] and he knows how to get him in a rhythm where he’s comfortable. I think that helps a lot, too.”

Representing the home team is Ronald Cuneo’s multiple stakes winner Armando R trained by Laurel Park-based Damon Dilodovico, who ran third in the 2016 Special with Warrioroftheroses. The 7-year-old Blame gelding snapped a three-race losing streak with a gutsy head victory in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance April 20 at Laurel.

“He was kind of going through the motions prior to his last race. He was really struggling with the racetrack for a period and it started to come around that’s about when he started to train much better,” Dilodovico said. “I love the distance for him. I think he’ll love the mile and an eighth and further, just by his training, and that’s our whole thing. And, he’s right at home.”

Armando R owns eight career wins, two of them from four starts at Pimlico. He captured an off-the-grass Japan Turf Cup and the 1 1/8-mile Richard Small in succession last fall at Laurel, both in his typical late-running style. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos will be up from Post 4 at 120 pounds.

“He’s a good guy, very chill in the barn. Actually, for an older guy he can be a bit of a tougher gallop, which is kind of funny,” Dilodovico said. “I’d expect a guy of his age to behave himself.”

Cheyenne Stable’s Cooke Creek enters the Special having run second by three-quarters of a length March 12 at Gulfstream and third by a neck April 20 at Keeneland, the latter at 1 1/8 miles. A 4-year-old son of champion Uncle Mo, he won the Rocky Run second time out in his stakes debut and ran second in the Nashua (G3) to cap his juvenile campaign. He went winless in five 2022 starts, all in stakes, his best finish a season-opening third in the one-mile Jerome.

Keystone Field, the 2022 Claiming Crown Jewel winner that ran second to Law Professor two starts back in the Excelsior; Kuchar, second in two prior stakes tries including a two-length loss to Rattle N Roll in the American Derby; and Speed Bias, making his stakes debut after hitting the board in six of eight starts, complete the field.

Also on the card are the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs and $100,000 Allaire du Pont Distaff for fillies and mares 3 and up going 1 1/8 miles. They are joined by a pair of stakes scheduled for the turf – the $100,000 Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies at one mile, and $100,000 The Very One, a five-furlong dash for females 3 and older.

First race post time is 11:30 a.m.