Shaman Ghost Grinds Out Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3) Victory

Multiple G1-Winning Favorite Edges Stablemate Dolphus in $300,000 Stakes
               
BALTIMORE – 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 eighth of a mile to capture Friday’s $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3) by a neck at historic 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. It was always a big deal. I remember when my dad came the year he won,” Jerkens said. “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 (G1) 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 a quarter-mile in 23.84 seconds and a half in 47.92, followed by 80-1 long shot Discreet Lover and Conquest Windycity.
             
Hall of Fame-elect jockey Javier Castellano initially found himself racing in behind the leaders heading into the first turn before moving four wide for a clear run down the backstretch as Dolphus remained in front after six furlongs in 1:12.41. Castellano began to make his move approaching the stretch and engaged Dolphus after the two straightened for home.
            
“Dolphus had his own way. He wasn’t exactly walking. But he got the three quarters in 1:12 and the way the track was playing today, I thought he had a shot to hang on,” Jerkens said. “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 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) March 11 and the 2016 Woodward (G1) 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,” he added. “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 ¼ lengths back to Conquest Windycity, who held on for third by a nose over 30-1 long shot Name Changer. Watershed, Discreet Lover, Fellowship, Eagle and Bodhisattva completed the order of finish. Defending champion Noble Bird was scratched.
             
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,” Jerkens said, “and it’s great to keep Shaman going.”
             
The Special’s rich past includes the iconic 1938 match race won by Seabiscuit over Triple Crown winner War Admiral. The stakes 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 and modern-day Horses of the Year Criminal Type, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft and Invasor.
 
Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3) Quotes
 
James Jerkens (Shaman Ghost, 1st; Dolphus, 2nd): “): “Dolphus had his own way. He wasn’t exactly walking but he got the three-quarters in 1:12. The way the track was playing today, I thought he had a shot to hang on. Shaman had a little too much for him, but Dolphus ran terrific. It’s terrific to run 1-2 – that’s what we came down here for. I remember coming here with Devil His Due three years in a row and he won one of those years. It was always a big deal. I remember my dad (the late Hall of fame trainer Allen Jerkens) came the year he won (1993). It’s great to win for Mr. (Frank) Stronach at his track and it’s great to keep Shaman going. Plus, this race fit Shaman’s schedule.”
 
Winning Jockey Javier Castellano (Shaman Ghost): “I love the horse and I have so much confidence in him because he reminds me of his father. Ghostzapper (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year) was such a great horse, he got better the more he matured. This is such an honest horse. Jimmy Jerkens did such a great job for him. He takes his time and [picks out good spots. I’ve been very successful with Mr. Stronach going back to 2004.
 
“I could have gone to the lead any time, but I didn’t want to. He’s very straightforward. You can put him wherever you want.”
 
Jockey Rajiv Maragh (Dolphus, 2nd): “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, 3rd): “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, 3rd): “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.”