Pyrenees Thrilling Winner of $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3)

Pyrenees Thrilling Winner of $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3)

Historic 1 3/16-Mile Event Preceded 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2)
Third Stakes Win of Day for Trainer Cherie DeVaux

LAUREL, MD – Blue Heaven Farm’s Pyrenees, taking a three-race win streak into his stakes debut, made it four in a row by running down favored Kingsbarns in deep stretch and going on for a thrilling three-quarter-length triumph in the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) Friday at legendary Pimlico Race Course.

The 54th running of the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special for 3-year-olds and up was the fifth of six stakes, three graded, worth $1 million in purses on a sensational 14-race Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Day program, immediately preceding the 100th edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies.

Pyrenees ($12.20), named for the mountain range on the border of France and Spain, gave trainer Cherie DeVaux her third stakes win of the program following Shotgun Hottie in the listed $100,000 Allaire du Pont Distaff and She Feels Pretty in the $100,000 Hilltop sprinting on turf.

A 4-year-old son of top sire Into Mischief, Pyrenees was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., who will attempt to repeat the performance while navigating the same distance in Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, aboard Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan.

The winning time was 1:57.73 over a fast main track.

Harlocap fended off 3-5 favorite and multiple graded-stakes winner Kingsbarns for a half-mile through splits of 24.60 and 50.26 seconds, with Royal Ship following in the clear in third and Hernandez settled on Pyrenees along the rail in fourth. Kingsbarns was finally able to stick a nose in front after six furlongs went in 1:15.57, but Pyrenees was beginning to roll on the far outside and came with a steady run through the stretch to catch Kingsbarns approaching the wire.

Kingsbarns was second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Harlocap, who was 1 ¼ lengths better than multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Red Route One in fourth. Be Better, Royal Ship and Double Crown completed the order of finish. Time for Trouble was scratched.

Hernandez has been aboard for the entirety of Pyrenees’ win streak, which began with a mid-December maiden special weight triumph over older horses at Fair Grounds, his fifth career start. This year they won an open allowance Jan. 27 at Fair Grounds, also going 1 1/16 miles, and captured a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance April 12 at Keeneland in his Pimlico Special tune-up.

The Pimlico Special was created in 1937 by Alfred Vanderbilt, the master of Sagamore Farm, as the first major stakes in the United States set up as an invitational and was won by Triple Crown champion War Admiral. The following year, War Admiral was upset by Seabiscuit in what Sports Illustrated called the ‘Race of the Century.’

Revived in 1988 by late Maryland Jockey Club president Frank De Francis, the Special’s illustrious roster of winners also includes Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, Citation and Assault, and modern-day Horses of the Year Criminal Type, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft and Invasor.

Pimlico Special (G3) Quotes

Winning trainer Cherie DeVaux (Pyrenees): (On winning three stakes) "It's not really anything in the forefront. We were just hoping the horses showed up: A horse like him, stepping up into stakes company and him performing, and Shotgun Hottie coming into form, and She Feels Pretty, her first start since last year. You just hope you come in here and the horses run their race, they come out sound, they come out healthy. That's the most important, the last part. It's great. This is my first time really running here on my own. I only came here one time before with Chad (when she was an assistant to Chad Brown). So, I think I'll have to make this a yearly visit."

“I've never won three races in a day, so we'll take this."

(On Pyrenees' race): "He's been a horse that's been a challenge for us, and he faced a lot of adversity in that race. Didn't have a clear trip, had to sit back, and then they were going so slow, for him to close into that was really special."

“The first time he ran, he double-barreled the jockey and sent him flying across the screen. He really trained like he knew he had a lot in him but always hung back. We were trying blinkers, then he had a pretty significant injury that caused the layoff. So, we just regrouped with him. Really that's all we did. He forced us to give him the time."

"He's definitely more mature, I don't know if confidence is in his skill set of thinking.”

Churchill Downs' Grade 1 Stephen Foster will be under consideration. "He's run four really good races, so we just have to make sure he's doing as well as he can be doing before we start planning a path for him."

Winning Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. (Pyrenees): “They went so slow in front of us. We were following the favorite. Of course, he looked like the horse to beat. He was 2 for 2 at the mile and three-sixteenths. As slow as they were going, I got a little worried around the second tur, because it stayed bunched up and we were kind of in a pocket. We were just kind of waiting for something to kind of move. When Johnny’s horse died off a bit straightening out for home and Kingsbarns didn’t run away from him, he only opened up a like a length and a half on him, I was pretty confident in our horse being able to run him down."

Assistant trainer Sophie Green (Kingsbarns, 2nd): “I mean he did what he did. I think they ran a little bit slow for him. When we looked at the race and saw 25 (seconds for first quarter) and then 50 (seconds for the half), we thought it could have been a little quicker than that. Maybe he should have moved quicker, but it is what it is. He didn’t run badly at all, just maybe it could have been a little quicker for him and he could have moved quicker.”

Jockey Luis Saez (Kingsbarns, 2nd): “We were going good. He was in a perfect spot. The pace was slow. Didn't matter. He ran down the lane. He just got caught by a good horse at the end.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen (Harlocap, 3rd): “He got a nice soft pace, needed to take advantage of it, and didn't. Third-best today. He held them off as long as he could.”

Jockey Paco Lopez (Harlocap, 3rd): “The plan was to slow it down and try to steal the race. My horse ran very well. He did everything I asked. He had a little kick turning for home and finished up well."