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BALTIMORE, MD – Stronach Stable’s multiple Grade 1 winner Shaman Ghost swept past rivals on the far outside and reeled in stubborn stablemate Dolphus in the final 1/8th of a mile to capture Friday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special by a neck at Pimlico Race Course.
The 47th running of the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special for 3-year-olds and up was a first for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, whose father, late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, trained 1993 winner and 1994 and 1995 runner-up Devil His Due.
“I remember coming here with Devil His Due three years in a row,” Jerkens said.” It was always a big deal. I remember when my dad came the year he won. It’s terrific to run 1-2. It’s what we came down here for.”
The winning time of 1:54.55 over a fast main track was the fastest in the five runnings since the Special was resumed in 2012 after a three-year hiatus.
Dede McGehee’s Dolphus, a half-brother to 2009 Preakness winner and Horse of the Year and 2016 Racing Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra, broke from his rail post and separated after a level beginning from the field of nine to take the lead through fractions of :23.84 seconds and :47.92. He was followed by Discreet Lover and Conquest Windycity.
Hall of Fame-elect jockey Javier Castellano, aboard Shaman Ghost, initially found himself racing in behind the leaders heading into the first turn before moving four wide for a clear run down the backstretch while Dolphus remained in front after six furlongs. Castellano began to make his move approaching the stretch and engaged Dolphus after the two straightened for home.
“Dolphus had his own way,” Jerkens said. “He wasn’t exactly walking. But he got the 3/4 in 1:12, and the way the track was playing today, I thought he had a shot to hang on. Shaman had just a little too much for him, but Dolphus ran terrific.”
The Special was the second of three consecutive wins for Castellano, who also won this race aboard Commissioner in 2015 and Last Gunfighter in 2013. Together, he and Shaman Ghost, a son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 11 and the Grade 1 Woodward last summer at Saratoga.
“I love the horse and I have so much confidence in him because he reminds me of his father,” said Castellano, Ghostzapper’s regular rider. “Ghostzapper was such a great horse, he got better the more he matured.
“This is such an honest horse. I could have gone to the lead anytime, but I didn’t want to. He’s very straightforward. You can put him wherever you want.”
It was 7 1/4 lengths back to Conquest Windycity, who held on for third by a nose over Name Changer. Watershed, Discreet Lover, Fellowship, Eagle, and Bodhisattva completed the order of finish. Defending champion Noble Bird was a late scratch.
Shaman Ghost now has eight wins and $3,719,311 in purse earnings from 16 lifetime starts. He was racing for the first time at Pimlico, one of several tracks owned by Stronach Stables’ Frank Stronach.
“It’s great to win for Mr. Stronach at his track, and it’s great to keep Shaman going,” Jerkens said.
The Special’s rich past includes the iconic 1938 match race won by Seabiscuit over Triple Crown winner War Admiral. The race was discontinued after 1958 but revived in 1988 by late Maryland Jockey Club president Frank De Francis. The Special’s winners include Triple Crown champions Whirlaway, Citation, and Assault, along with modern-day Horses of the Year Criminal Type, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft, and Invasor.
Shaman Ghost returned $2.80, $2.20, and $2.10. Dolphus brought back $4 and $3.40, while Conquest Windycity paid $3.20 to show.
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Jockey Rajiv Maragh, Dolphus: “He ran great. He got nice and comfortable on the lead. He finished strong. I just couldn’t hold off Shaman Ghost, but he battled hard today.”
Trainer Brendan Walsh, Conquest Windycity: “I thought he ran great. To come out of a two-other-than allowance to race against those kind of horses is very impressive. He dug in for a good third and he ran a very good race.”
Jockey Luis Saez, Conquest Windycity: “I had a very good trip and I was in a very good position. I tipped him out at the top of the stretch and tried to go with the winner. The winner is just a very good horse.”
Pimlico Race Course
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