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Monday, May 30, 2005

On the Right Track

Horse Overcomes Muddy Conditions, Wins $500,000 Pimlico Special in Fast Time

BALTIMORE, May 20 -- The last time Eddington ran at Pimlico he was watching the great Smarty Jones pulling farther and farther away in his romp home in the 2004 Preakness Stakes.

A week short of a year later, Eddington returned to the track for the historic Grade I $500,000 Pimlico Special and his old rival was far away in Kentucky, busy trying to breed the Smarty Joneses of tomorrow.

Up against less imposing competition -- including 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide -- Eddington trailed behind a wicked pace set by Presidentialaffair and came home fast in the stretch to win the race in the slop by 5 1/4 lengths on Friday.

Eddington not only lost to Smarty Jones last year but to Birdstone in the Belmont and Travers Stakes. With the win in the Special, he finally has stepped into the spotlight.

"This is very meaningful," trainer Mark Hennig said of taking a race won by the likes of Seabiscuit, Citation and Cigar. "Frustrating at times because we always believed this horse was as good as any of them. He's always been a top horse, and he's right where he belongs today -- on top of the game."

The Pimlico Special is run at the same 1 3/16 -mile distance as the Preakness, and Eddington gave the 3-year-olds competing on Saturday a time to run at -- a fast 1 minute 58.05 seconds.

The race highlighted a big five-stakes race card largely ruined by torrential rain that fell Thursday night and into Friday afternoon. Of the 126 horses that entered the 12 races, 41 scratched and did not participate.

The track handled a total of $10,289,487, down from $12,223,000 last year when the race was run in clear weather. The 13,265 fans at Pimlico (and at other sites around the state) bet $2.9 million, down slightly from last year, said Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto.

"We thought we'd be breaking records like breaking sticks," said Jim Gagliano, executive vice president of Maryland racing, "but the weather gods had other ideas. But this is just a prelude to tomorrow."


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