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Boasting a resume that already includes some of the most prestigious races in the world, Stronach Stable’s Shaman Ghost will be favored to add one more in Friday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 47th running of the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special for 3-year-olds and up attracted a solid field of 10 as one of seven stakes, four graded, worth $1.15 million in purses on a 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Day program that includes the return of the Ultimate Girls Day Out, an entire afternoon dedicated to the spirit and strength of women. First race post time is 11:30 a.m.
Shaman Ghost enters the Pimlico Special off of a 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap on March 11, his second start of the year. He opened his 5-year-old campaign finishing a decisive second to champion Arrogate in the Grade 1, $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 28 at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was particularly impressed with Shaman Ghost’s performance in California, given that he didn’t feel the bay son of Ghostzapper was enamored by Santa Anita’s main track.
#6 Shaman Ghost – His current form towers over this field. In his last two races, he finished second to the mighty Arrogate before winning the Santa Anita Handicap. If he runs a race similar to either one of those efforts, he’ll easily win here. It’s been fun to watch “The Ghost” turn into one of the best older handicap horses in the country. All things being equal, this should be a walk in the park for him.
#3 Watershed – It’s been really hard to get a read on this horse ever since he arrived on the scene. He looked like a budding superstar as a 3-year-old before having a disastrous 4-year-old season, but he’s now won two of three races to kick off his 5-year-old campaign. Last time out, he won his first graded stakes race, the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland, by nearly 3 lengths. Can he finally put together two solid races in a row? There’s a good shot, and this is the perfect spot for him to try.
#1 Dolphus – I definitely thought that this horse was overrated because of his breeding, but since changing over to trainer Jimmy Jerkens, I’ve been very impressed with his progression. He was a solid fourth in the Stymie Stakes two races back and was sharp in an allowance race last time out, winning by a little over a length. His numbers have improved drastically in those last two starts, too, which has me thinking that Jerkens may have figured him out. With both of his horses in great form, this could end up a Jerkens exacta.
#2 Eagle – I was going to write something serious, but instead, I’ll just write what I keep thinking. While I have a lot of respect for Eagle and would love to own him, he might be the world’s most boring horse. He’s always entered in races similar to this, and he’s always bet fairly hard, but he rarely wins. In fact, he’s just 1 for 10 in graded stakes races, but somehow, he’s always around at the end and either hits the board or gets close. I expect the exact same type of race from him again here. Why should I expect anything different?
#5 Noble Bird – This horse is very easy to figure out. If he gets an easy lead, he’s nearly impossible to catch, and if he doesn’t get the lead, he doesn’t fire with any kind of run. That’s why he has to be labeled as a “party crasher” in every race that he enters. He ran the race of his life in last year’s Pimlico Special, crushing the field by over 11 lengths, but he fell into a perfect setup and got the lead all to himself. I don’t think that will happen today because other speed is present, but if he does, look out.
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#8 Bodhisattva – He consistently shows up in these Mid-Atlantic races and can sometimes get a win. However, he’s never won a race like this one, and that trend won’t end today.
#9 Conquest Windycity – This horse has always shown a little bit of talent and put together a really nice effort last time out at Keeneland, winning an allowance race with ease. I’m not sure that he’s a graded stakes horse yet, but don’t blame them for taking a shot in this spot.
#10 Fellowship – He returned off of a nearly-one year layoff to win last time out in an allowance race at Laurel Park. This is quite a jump up from that race, but he did hit the board in a couple of stakes races last year. He also ran in last year’s Preakness but finished eighth. He’s one to watch in the future, but not today.
#4 Discreet Lover – He displayed a huge effort last time out in a Parx allowance event, blowing out the field by over 6 lengths. However, that was his first win since August 2016, so that race could’ve been a fluke. Either way, this is the quite the jump up in class.
#7 Name Changer – This is a tough first race back for a horse that we haven’t seen him November. He did finish 2016 by winning two races in a row, but this is a very tough test for him.
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