John Gunther's Last Gunfighter, who has won five in a row since his maiden victory last October, will invade Maryland and face mostly locally based horses in the $300,000 Pimlico Special at Pimlico Race Course May 17.
The 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special is one of seven stakes, including the featured Black-Eyed Susan, on a strong 13-race Friday program on the eve of the Preakness Stakes. The program begins at noon EDT, with the last race set for 6:22 p.m.
Last Gunfighter, a 4-year-old First Samurai colt bred in Kentucky by his owner, won the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack in his last start March 23 for trainer Chad Brown. He previously won two overnight stakes and an allowance event at Aqueduct after his maiden win.
Last Gunfighter, with Javier Castellano named to ride at 124 pounds from post 7, has been working steadily at Belmont Park for his first race in almost two months and figures to be the favorite in the seven-horse field in the Pimlico Special; he is 7-5 on the morning line.
Maryland-bred Richard's Kid, owned by Dave Kenney, Triple B Farms, and WestsideRentals.com, will make his first Maryland start since 2009. The 8-year-old Lemon Drop Kid horse has been facing the top older horses in the country in recent years for trainer Doug O'Neill, who is based in Southern California.
In his only Pimlico start, Richard's Kid finished fourth in the Grade 3 William Donald Schaefer Stakes in May 2009. He then left for California, but this year competed at Keeneland, where he was third in the Ben Ali Stakes, and at Churchill Downs, where he finished eighth (placed seventh) in the Alysheba Stakes.
"I really think he has been a lucky trip or two away [from a victory]," O'Neill said.
Rosie Napravik has the mount on Richard's Kid at 118 pounds from post 5. Richard's Kid will race without blinkers for the first time since the Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year.
Sylvia Heft's Eighttofasttocatch, a winner of 12 of 41 starts including the Henry Clark Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico April 20 with a 105 Beyer figure, could prove the one to catch in the Pimlico Special. Trained by Tim Keefe, the 7-year-old Maryland-bred gelding by Not For Love has won seven stakes, three of them at 1 1/18 miles; in his only start at 1 3/16 miles he finished last in the 2012 Pimlico Special.
Forest Boyce gets the call on Eighttofasttocatch at 124 pounds from post 4. The gelding is extremely dangerous when allowed to control the pace.
Keefe said he decided to enter Eighttofasttocatch after the Pimlico racing office told him the field wasn't coming up as expected.
"He came out of [his last] race in fantastic order and is training phenomenally," Keefe said. "He has put two of his best races back to back."