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Lemon Drop Kid
After winning one of his first three starts, all in New York, Kid Cruz has found a home on the Mid-Atlantic circuit with back-to-back stakes victories in Maryland heading into the Preakness, which would be his graded stakes debut.
A son of 1999 Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Lemon Drop Kid, Kid Cruz was claimed for $50,000 by trainer Linda Rice on behalf of Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds out of a six-length maiden victory going one mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 22.
Second by less than a length in his first try against winners to kick off 2014, Kid Cruz was sent to Laurel Park where he rallied from dead last after six furlongs to win the 1 1/8-mile Private Terms Stakes by four lengths in 1:54.82 on March 8.
From there, Kid Cruz was an easy 3 ½-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 19 as the betting favorite. A half-brother to Grade 2 winner Spellbound, Kid Cruz can become the first Tesio winner to take the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983.
Kid Cruz is named for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
A 33-year-old native of Columbia who now calls Maryland home, Pimentel was third in the local standings with 88 winners in 2012, a year after making his Preakness debut on Norman Asbjornson, who finished 11th. It remains Pimentel’s lone Preakness mount.
Pimentel has been aboard Ben’s Cat for 27 of the Maryland-bred and based multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter’s 38 career races, accounting for 17 of his 25 lifetime victories, including the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on the 2013 Preakness Eve.
He began riding in his native country for more than a year before arriving in the U.S., beginning his career as an exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. His first domestic victory came with Concega in December 2000.
After five years as one of the top riders in New Jersey, Pimentel arrived in Maryland in the summer of 2006. He finished third in the 2008 local standings with 78 wins, including the Laurel summer meet title, and captured both the Maryland Million Distaff and Maryland Juvenile Championship that year for trainer Mike Trombetta.
In 2001, Pimentel was an Eclipse Award finalist for top apprentice in 2001, when he was leading rider at The Meadowlands and set a career high with $4.3 million in purses to go along with 145 wins. He ranked in the top 10 at Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands from 2001-05.
Pimentel reached a personal best with 146 wins in 2011, earning his 1,000th career victory on Sept. 19 of that year with Pet Me Pet Me at Delaware Park.
Black Swan Stable & Vina Del Mar
A former trainer who won 498 races and more than $12 million from 1977 to 2007 before turning to real estate and racing partnerships, John DeStefano Jr. founded Black Swan Stable in 2008.
Three of DeStefano’s five graded stakes wins as a trainer came with Michelle Can Pass, who captured the Grade 3 Gallant Fox in 1992 and 1993, and the Grade 3 Stuyvesant in 1993.
Black Swan campaigned Sean Avery, a multiple stakes winner whose biggest victory came in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga Race Course in 2011.
Florida-based Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds was founded in 2005 by Frederick, Md. native Steven Brandt and business partner Richard Boylan. Brandt has owned horses off and on since the 1980s, and has teamed with Boylan for the past nine years.
Kid Cruz is the first stakes winner for Brandt, a former executive at Verizon, IBM and Home Depot who now does independent consulting.
Having turned 50 on March 7, Rice would become just the 15th woman to saddle a horse in the Preakness and first since Mucho Macho Man was sixth for Kathy Ritvo in 2011. The best finish for any female trainer was Maryland-bred and based Magic Weisner for the late Nancy Alberts in 2002.
Rice hails from a racing family headed by her father, Clyde, a respected horseman and former trainer who operates a training center in Ocala, Fla. He picked out and sold Hall of Fame trainer and fellow Wisconsin native D. Wayne Lukas many of his early stakes winners.
After studying computer science at Penn State for two years, Rice began training at Monmouth Park in 1987 before moving to the New York circuit in 1991, where she has remained since. She has campaigned Grade 1 winners Lucifer’s Stone, Things Change and City Zip, and on Aug. 18, 2008 saddled the first four finishers in the Mechanicville Stakes at Saratoga.
The following year, Rice picked up 20 winners – all on turf – to edge perennial champion Todd Pletcher and become the first woman to capture Saratoga’s prestigious training title. She also finished second to Pletcher in 2007 and 2010.
Won her 1,000th career race with Sextant on July 16, 2011, closing day of the Belmont Park spring-summer meet, to tie Pletcher for the trainer’s title. Rice also tied for the trainer’s crown at Aqueduct’s 2011 spring meet.
Owned by husband and wife Carrie and Craig Brogden and Carrie’s mother, Sandy Willwerth, Machmer Hall was founded in 2001 and named for a building that honors Carrie’s great-grandfather, once the Dean of the University of Massachusetts.
Willwerth is a veterinarian who graduated from Michigan State; Carrie Brogden holds degrees in psychology and biology from James Madison University; and Craig Brogden has a finance degree from college in his native Australia.
Machmer Hall bred Premium Tap in a foal-sharing arrangement with Will Farish. Premium Tap won the Grade 1 Woodward and Grade 1 Clark Handicap and was third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2006 before finishing his career racing in the Middle East.
Also bred 2006 Winnipeg Futurity winner First Cavalry, and Carrie Brogden raced You Glitter Girl, winner of the Sara’s Success Stakes at Calder Race Course in 2005.