first captain first under the wire in pimlico special

After finishing out of the money in his last start, First Captain was looking to return to the winner’s circle again in 2022, this time in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special and the son of Curlin came through with a narrow win for his connections Friday at Pimlico

Breaking from post eight, jockey Luis Saez settled First Captain midpack behind front runner Untreated as the field went into the first turn. First Captain ran on the outside as Untreated had a one-length lead through early fractions of :24.99 for the first quarter and then :49.80 for the half-mile, with Workin’ on a Dream and Vindictive behind him in second and third.

Around the far turn, Untreated still held onto a short lead, with Workin on a Dream and the favorite Vindictive challenging and Saez moving First Captain into fourth as they rounded into the stretch. Vindictive rallied on Untreated’s outside, drawing even midway down the Pimlico straight as Saez had First Captain driving down the middle of the track. Vindictive took the lead inside the last sixteenth of a mile, but First Captain had too much momentum, catching the Pletcher trainee in the final strides to win by a head. Untreated held on for third.

It was a particularly impressive closing kick, given the sluggish fractions of the Special. Untreated, with Joel Rosario up, was able to get clear while dawdling through an opening half-mile in 49.80 seconds and three-quarters in 1:14.27. By contrast, the final three-sixteenths went in a swift 17.78.

The final time for the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special was 1:56.24 over a fast track. The race and track record is 1:52.55, set by Farma Way in the 1991 Special.

“As they went by us for the first time, he was very settled. And Luis was just sitting on him and I could sense that the jock had a lot of confidence as they went into the first turn.” West Point’s Terry Finley said after the race. “On the turn for home, I saw him shift out like three or four lanes. I said, you know, obviously he’s doing that for a reason. At the quarter pole, that was a really good thing when I saw Luis do that.”

Though just a Grade 3 these days, the Special is one of America’s great, historic races. Best known for the race that hosted the Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race, during the 1990s and early 2000s, it was a must stop for horses with national aspirations, and the roster of winners is dotted with Hall of Famers.

“So, you know over the years we’ve gotten better and better, and obviously we won some big races, but this is a really special race,” Finley continued. “I can remember as a kid, all the good horses and I looked at the list in the program and there were some really good horses.”

First Captain is a four-year-old colt out of the A.P. Indy mare America. Bred by co-owner Bobby Flay, he is also owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm LLC, and Woodford Racing, LLC. The Pimlico Special is First Captain’s fifth win in seven starts and his second graded stakes victory. He has earned $470,100.

First Captain paid $12.00, $5.40, and $3.80. Vindictive paid $2.80 and $2.20. Untreated paid $3.00 to show. The $1 exacta paid $21.00.

First Captain

First Captain (outside) was up late to win the G3 Pimlico Special. Photo by Allison Janezci.