It’s about time we got some good news for thoroughbred racing in Maryland. After not being carded last year, the Pimlico Special will return this year, albeit at $250,000 rather than $500,000. As many of you know I consider Pimlico my “home track.” If there is one place I long to be anytime the weather is over 60 degrees – it’s Pimlico. The countless memories I have there with family and good friends defy explanation.
When the Pimlico Special was not carded last year, it immediately reminded me of just how lucky we are to host the Preakness Stakes each year. With the future of Pimlico and indeed much of Maryland racing very much in the balance over recent years, the thought of somehow losing the Preakness was too painful to consider, and yet frighteningly possible. I consider Pimlico and the Preakness to be quintessentially Maryland. They are absolute icons of Baltimore. The Pimlico Special is of course the second biggest race all year in Maryland, taking a slight backseat to the Preakness. Looking over the history of the Special, it’s not hard to get lost in the steeped and storied tradition
War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Citation, Invasor, Real Quiet, Mineshaft – the list of famed horses to have competed and prevailed in the 1 3/16 miles event is nearly endless. The most famous running of the Real Quiet is most likely the 1938 match race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. This was of course immortalized in the film Seabiscuit several years ago. The funny thing is that I’ve watched that film with people from Baltimore who never get that they are seeing Pimlico - our home track! It’s lost upon the masses, unfortunately. With the progression of time and the slippage into obscurity of thoroughbred racing from the national pulse, the track has fallen upon hard times to say the least.
I searched the net trying to come up with something to help capture the excitement of the Pimlico Special for our readers. The Seabiscuit/War Admiral thing has been played out entirely too much. To be honest, the race was more exciting in the movie than from the actual replays I’ve seen. The Pimlico Special that I remember getting chills frp, and that helped seal the deal as far as horse racing becoming an obsession of mine, was the 1999 running ‘Special. The ’99 Pimlico Special featured two arch rivals in Free House and Real Quiet. Real Quiet hadn’t won since the 1998 Preakness for trainer Bob Baffert. Free House was 2nd to Baffert’s Silver Charm in the 1997 Preakness. The two hooked up in a stretch run for all-times that came down to the final strides.
What follows belows was an almost unbelievable find. Some good soul has placed not just the race, but minutes worth of pre-race discussion and reflection from the original 1999 television broadcast on youtube. It’s a 2 part video, but I think it’s worth watching every bit of it. Here’s hoping we’ll get another memorable edition of the Pimlico Special this year. One thing is for certain, it’s good to have our Grade 1 race back!
Part 1 – Pre race discussion and post parade – 1999 Pimlico Special
Part 2 – Real Quiet and Free House go toe to toe in the 1999 Pimlico Special
It’s moments like this that Pimlico so badly needs. The legendary race track has certainly seen better days, but at least for now the return of the beloved Pimlico Special gives us reason to hope. I’ll be waiting with eager anticipation to see what kind of field is attracted this year.