Relive fabled Seabiscuit match race before Pimlico Special
Pimlico: Pimlico Special (Grade 3 hcap) 1m1½f | dirt | 3yo+ | Live on ATR
There are few more storied contests in the US calendar than the Pimlico Special, which in 1938 hosted the celebrated match race in which Seabiscuit defeated the previous year's Triple Crown winner War Admiral, who had won the inaugural event in 1937.
That particular clash is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in US racing history, and Seabiscuit was followed by a litany of big names in winning the Special in the 1940s, including Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, Assault and Citation.
However, more recently the race has endured a chequered history, being discontinued for 30 years after 1958 and then revived as a handicap. Among subsequent winners were champions like the legendary Cigar, Skip Away and Invasor – yet four years out of five it was not run between 2007 and 2011 for economic reasons before clawing its way back onto the Preakness weekend programme, albeit without Graded status, in 2012.
Now what used to be a $500,000 event at Grade 1 level is worth only $300,000 as a Grade 3 – but at least it features a Grade 1 performer in the shape of Shaman Ghost (Jimmy Jerkens/Javier Castellano), who shoulders top weight of 8st 12lb.
Nobody could accuse Pimlico owner Frank Stronach of failing to support his own races with the star of his racehorse string. After chasing home Arrogate in the first Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park – which Stronach owns – the five-year-old son of Ghostzapper won the Santa Anita Handicap, also run at a Stronach venue.
"Mr Stronach decided he wanted to run at Pimlico," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "He's been running every couple of months and it's kind of been working out so he wanted to stick to that. It was fine with me."
Jerkens also saddles allowance winner Dolphus (Rajiv Maragh), a half-brother to the brilliant Rachel Alexandra.
The remainder are headed by front-runner Noble Bird (Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux), who won last year's race by 11¼ lengths, and Godolphin's Grade 3 winner Watershed (Kiaran McLaughlin/Paco Lopez).
Also on Friday
Pimlico: Black-Eyed Susan (Grade 2) 1m1f | dirt | 3yo fillies (9.50pm BST, live on ATR)
An open-looking field for Pimlico's version of the Oaks, the official feature of the first day of the Preakness weekend. Summer Luck (Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux), a daughter of 2010 Preakness Stakes winner Lookin At Lucky, will be well fancied after failing to get a run in the Kentucky Oaks.
>>The Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga has been renamed the H. Allen Jerkens, honouring the New York-based Hall of Fame trainer who died in 2015. The seven-furlong dirt race for three-year-olds will be run on the Travers Stakes card on August 26.