From a Maryland Jockey Club release

Trainer Todd Pletcher has never had one of his horses win the storied $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3), but that could change come Friday.

Pletcher will send two strong contenders, Revolutionary and Golden Lad, to post in the Special that will see nine horses start the 12th race of the day.

Both horses come in off strong performances in the Oaklawn Handicap and Pletcher said he expects Revolutionary,  who finished third in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1), to run “as well as he is capable of racing.” The son of War Pass is the 5-2 morning line favorite set by Pimlico handicapper Keith Feustle.

Golden Lad, meanwhile, has won four of his last five starts.  The winning string was broken at Oaklawn, when his jockey, Gary Stevens, said the horse did not handle the track surface well. In the Special, Golden Lad, breaking from the No. 4 hole, returns to jockey Jose Lezcano, who rode him to three of his previous four wins.

“We’ve had our eye on the Pimlico Special since the Oaklawn Handicap,” Pletcher said. “It’s based on how they are both doing and training, the timing and the distance.”

Asked if he’s looking for something out of the Special, aside from the joy of one of them winning, in terms of each horse’s development, Pletcher said no.

“The focus is purely on the Pimlico Special,” he said. “It’s prestigious in its own right. We’d be very happy to win it.”

So would the trainers of the other seven horses going to post in a race  whose history goes back to the storied match between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.

Trainer Eric Guillot, for instance, said his horse, Moreno, is among the top five handicap horses in the country. He also said if the other horses want to beat his, “they’ll have to run better numbers” than they have been.

“But,” he added, “all the horses in this race bother me. They’ve all got a chance, even though I think I have one of the best here. It’s a horse race – anything can happen.”

Guillot was reminded of that in April when he had to totally change his plans for Moreno. The horse was scheduled for the Oaklawn Handicap but came down with a fever.  Guillot had to scratch those plans and his plans for the Met Mile. He shipped his stable to Saratoga. Then he decided to bring graded stakes winner Moreno, who has finished among the top three in five of his last six races – all of them G1 and G2 stakes – to Pimlico.

“The distance suits him. The speed suits him and his running style,” Guillot said. “He’s a front runner. I think my horse has to be the favorite.”

Bob Baffert sends out Cat Burglar with jockey Rosie Napravnik up. The son of Unbridled’s Song comes in off two wins and three in his last five starts.

“His last two wins have been pretty impressive,” Baffert said of the horse’s past two starts at Santa Anita. “So I’m going to give him a shot at it.”

Baffert added he did not consider Cat Burglar for any races at Churchill Downs earlier this month, choosing instead to focus on the Special.

“The owner [Michael L. Petersen] is from the area – he lives in Maryland,” Baffert said. “So I thought we’d bring him over there and give him a race and see how he handles it.”

The Pimlico Special field, from the rail out: Valid (Marcus Vitali, Orlando Bocachica, 10-1), Cat Burglar (Bob Baffert, Rosie Napravnik, 4-1), Moreno (Eric Guillot, Joel Rosario, 7-2), Golden Lad (Todd Pletcher, Jose Lezcano, 6-1), Carve (Brad Cox, Jesus Castanon, 5-1), Revolutionary (Todd Pletcher, Mike Smith, 5-2), Major King (Lori Testerman, Xavier Perez, 50-1), Prayer For Relief (Dale Romans, John Velazquez, 12-1), and Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder, Leandro Goncalves, 15-1).

The Special is one of eight stakes races on the Friday card that is highlighted by the 90th running of the $500,000 Black Eyed Susan (G2).

(Featured image, of Last Gunfighter winning the 2013 Pimlico Special, by Laurie Asseo.)