Special Reserve Proves Best in $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3)

Ex-Claimer Becomes Graded-Stakes Winner in Six-Furlong Dash

Special Reserve Racing

BALTIMORE – Paradise Farm Corp. and David Staudacher’s Special Reserve dueled with favored Strike Power into the turn, put away that rival once straightened for home and rolled to a 1 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) at Pimlico Race Course.

The 34th running of the six-furlong Sprint for 3-year-olds and up, was the seventh of 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.25 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program headlined by the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Special Reserve ($9.80) finished up in 1:08.91 over a fast main track to give jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. his second win on the day and trainer Mike Maker his third stakes win of Preakness weekend. On Friday, Maker swept the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) with Army Wife and historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) with Last Judgment.

Beaten 1 ¼ lengths after setting the pace in the seven-furlong Commonwealth (G3) April 3 at Keeneland in his previous start, Special Reserve and 2018 Swale (G3) winner Strike Power engaged in a battle on the front end going the first quarter in 22.94 seconds and the half in 45.38. Special Reserve, racing on the outside, began to gain a slight edge leaving the far turn and was set down for a drive at the top of the stretch.

            Strike Power fought back but was unable to catch the winner, finishing 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Frosted Grace, who rallied up the rail for third by a half-length over Mucho. Grade 3 winner Laki was fifth, snapping a two-race win streak at Pimlico that included the 2020 Frank J. De Francis Memorial (G3) on last year’s Preakness undercard as well as the April 24 Frank Whiteley.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, trainer of Strike Power, had won the previous two editions of the Maryland Sprint with Switzerland in 2018 and New York Central in 2019. The race was not run in 2020 when the stakes calendar was adjusted and delayed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Strike Power’s jockey, Ricardo Santana Jr., was aboard both horses as well as 2017 winner Whitmore.

Maker claimed Special Reserve for $40,000 out of a neck victory sprinting six furlongs in the slop Feb. 6 at Oaklawn Park. He was a front-running winner of the first race for his new connections, also at six furlongs, before stretching out for his stakes debut in the Commonwealth where he finished behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Flagstaff.

$150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) Quotes

Winning Trainer Mike Maker (Special Reserve): “I might get some stalls (in Maryland).”  

“He was in at Oaklawn (for a $40,000 claiming tag on Feb. 6). We’ve got to have this horse, and we claimed him. He had a bit of a bleeding issue that we addressed and got taken care of, and the rest is history. We originally liked him because he was still eligible for two-other-than [allowances]. You never know in this game.”

“I just gave a leg up to Irad [Ortiz Jr.] and said ‘Good luck.’ That was about it. He was going to be forwardly placed.”

Winning Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Special Reserve): “The horse broke great and put me in the race very quick out of there, I had a horse inside with speed. I just relaxed and tried not to fight with him too much. He came back to me, so I left him there and when I asked him, he took straight off for me to win.”

 Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. (Strike Power; 2nd): “He ran hard and gave me everything he had. We had a good trip – just second best today.”

Trainer Kathy Ritvo (Frosted Grace; 3rd): “He ran a good race. We’re happy with him.”

Jockey Javier Castellano (Frosted Grace; 3rd): “He went really well. I expected to be a little closer to the pace, but the horse missed the break. There was nothing I could do. I liked the way he did it: come from behind, saved all the ground, cut the corner. He did really well today.”