FOUR STAKES WINNERS KEY PIMLICO ALLOWANCE

Forest Fire
Forest Fire narrowly proved best in the Maryland Million Classic. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

A quartet of stakes winners that have combined for 33 victories and nearly $1.3 million in purse earnings from 134 career starts liven up Friday’s feature event at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Ten horses were entered in Race 6, a second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

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Three horses are exiting victories including El Samuro, racing for the first time since last September at Gulfstream Park, and narrow 5-2 program favorite Hanalei’s Houdini, making his second start off the claim for owner-trainer Kieron Magee following a May 31 triumph at the course and distance.

Also in that group is V.I.P. Ticket (8-1), like El Samuro a winner of two straight. Trained by Jerry O’Dwyer, off to a seven-for-18 (39 percent) start at the extended Preakness Meet, V.I.P. Ticket is a two-time stakes winner at neighboring Charles Town in the 1 1/8-mile A Huevo last December and seven-furlong Confucius Say May 1.

Forest Fire (10-1) has gone two-for-13 since picking up his lone stakes victory in the 2019 Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park. Among the 10 rivals he beat that day was the favorite, Clubman, winner of the Maryland Coalition at Timonium and Russell Road at Charles Town in 2019 who is also among Friday’s challengers.

Clubman (20-1), the richest and winningest horse in the field with 10 victories and $468,442 in purse money from 46 starts, will race with blinkers on for trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon.

Coal Truth (8-1), purchased for $275,000 at Keeneland’s September 2016 yearling sale, won the 2019 Dowd Mile at Fonner Park and has changed barns four times since off the claim, most recently for $30,000 out of a Feb. 26 win at Oaklawn Park.

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