Rattle N Roll in time to take Pimlico Special
Moments after Rattle N Roll scored a miracle-bob victory in the Grade 3 Pimlico Speicial – and moments before a gentleman resplendent in a sparkly purple suit was spotted at Pimlico – trainer Kenny McPeek was happy to conduct an interview in Spanish.
He even offered to do one in Portuguese.
McPeek, in fact, was happy to chat in whatever language you wanted after watching Rattle N Roll, whom he trains Lucky Seven Stable, run down Speed Bias on the wire in 1:54.72 for 1 3/16 miles.
Even English, which was fortunate for those of us who don’t have either Spanish or Portuguese in our repertoires.
“It means a lot,” McPeek said afterwards. “I’ve seen so many really good horses win here. This race, the Pimlico Special, historically has been one of the greatest races in America.”
It was Rattle N Roll’s second consecutive victory, off a win in the Grade 3 Ben Ali, and his third in graded stakes company. He’s now won seven of 17 career starts with earnings of more than $1.36 million.
“He’s a smart horse. He knows he knows where the running starts and finishes, and he doesn’t get all worked up early,” McPeek said. “I mean, it compromises his chances sometimes, but he just seems to be getting a little bit better. And this was another really good spot for him.”
Speed Bias with Luis Saez in the irons for trainer Ron Moquett, took the lead as the field passed the wire for the first time, while Rattle N Roll was sixth, with only longshot local hopeful Armando R in the rearview.
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Speed Bias doled out moderate early fractions, 23.56 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.58 for the half-mile. At that point, Rattle N Roll was still sixth and seven lengths off the lead. As the field made its way up the backstretch, jockey Flavien Prat took Rattle N Roll outside of rivals for clear running.
Rattle N Roll began to gather momentum circling the turn and mounted his bid in the lane, drawing nearly even with a furlong to go and seeming to be en route to victory.
“To be honest, I thought I was going to open up turning for home,” Prat said. “But that horse on the inside [Speed Bias] really dug in… I thought for a minute I took the lead, and other one just didn’t want to quit.”
In fact, in late stretch it seemed Speed Bias had held off his rivals challenge. But in the very final strides, Rattle N Roll surged to get the bob. Clapton was 4 ½ lengths farther back in third.
Rattle N Roll, off as the favorite, returned $4.20 to win. The exacta paid $10.00 on a one-dollar wager.
“I wasn’t sure,” McPeek said of the nail-biting finish. “I was standing maybe a 16th in that direction [up the stretch], so it looked to me like it was tough.”
The four-year-old Speed Bias, owned by Keith Johnston and William Sparks, has become a different horse in 2023 after breaking his maiden last fall in his fourth career outing. The Special was his first try in stakes company. Moquett was philosophical.
“This is a big race for me,” he said. “This is one of the races I grew up wanting to win. Watching [2003 winner] Mineshaft, watching all those kinds of horses, to be competitive in this kind of race is what we’re after.”
McPeek’s charge may next show up in the 1 ⅛-mile Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs June 3. He also had ideas for the future of the Special.
“We’d love to see it a Grade 1again,” the trainer said. “But you know, we’ve got to lift the sport up a little bit, and the older horse division, you know, you never can tell where everybody’s going.”