Lucky Seven Stable’s Rattle N Roll got the solid pace set-up and 1 3/16-mile trip he loves in Friday’s $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3), but it almost wasn’t enough. The 11-10 favorite also needed determination to force his nose in front of the aptly-named Speed Bias at Pimlico.
Coming off a convincing win in the 1 3/16-mile Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland, Rattle N Roll has been under consideration for the June 3 Blame S. at Churchill Downs. Trainer Ken McPeek then decided to take the detour to Maryland, with the Pimlico Special shaping up to suit nicely.
“We weren’t planning on coming,” McPeek said. “Then we got the probables, and it didn’t look like at a mile and three-sixteenths, that this was a race we should pass. It looked like a race we should go for.”
Speed Bias did his utmost to thwart that idea. Grabbing the early lead in his stakes debut, the 7.30-1 chance set legitimate splits of :23.56, :47.58, and 1:10.77. Keystone Field kept him honest before giving way. On the far turn, Speed Bias began to be nudged, but his ears were cocked in the manner of one waiting for competition.
Rattle N Roll didn’t keep him waiting. Uncorking his trademark rally swinging into the stretch, Rattle N Roll engaged the leader. Once Flavien Prat got him to switch to his right lead, he appeared poised to assert. Yet Speed Bias would not concede an inch as they grappled down the lane.
The duo crossed the wire in tandem, and Rattle N Roll prevailed on the bob in 1:54.72. The winner deserves extra credit for overcoming ground loss, and top weight of 126 pounds.
“To be honest, I thought I was going to open up turning for home,” Prat said. “But that horse on the inside really dug in. It was a nice battle, and he ran a good race. I thought for a minute I took the lead, and the other one just didn’t want to quit. He really put his heart on the track. He was brave today.”
Speed Bias, in receipt of six pounds, was playing second fiddle to a McPeek notable for the second time this season. Two back at Oaklawn Park, the Ron Moquett pupil was runner-up to Smile Happy, the eventual winner of the Alysheba (G2).
“We ran a winning race,” Moquett said of the Pimlico Special. “I am very proud of him. This is a big race for me. This is one of the races I grew up wanting to win. Watching Mineshaft (winner of the 2003 edition as a Grade 1), watching all those kinds of horses, to be competitive in this kind of race is what we’re after.”
Another 4 1/4 lengths adrift in third came Clapton, relegating Keystone Field to fourth by a neck. Next came early stalker Kuchar; Law Professor, who stumbled out of the gate; and the ever-training Armando R. Cooke Creek was scratched.
Rattle N Roll’s sixth career stakes victory boosted his bankroll to $1,365,861 from a 17-7-1-2 line. The winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Futurity (G1), he found last season’s Road to the Kentucky Derby a bit too tough. But Rattle N Roll prospered in the second half with scores in the Oklahoma Derby (G3), off-the-turf American Derby, and St. Louis Derby. He made his four-year-old bow in the March 25 New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds, where he finished a useful fourth en route to the Ben Ali.
“Well, he’s a smart horse,” McPeek said of the colt’s running style. “He knows where the running starts and finishes. He doesn’t get all worked up early. It compromises his chances sometimes, but he just seems to be getting a little bit better. I think this was another really good spot for him. We’ve been a little conservative. We tried him against the higher level three-year-olds last year and he struggled. He ran a couple of fourths. But when we went around and placed him in generous spots he gets it done.
“It means a lot,” the horseman responded about winning a race so deep in history. “I’ve seen so many really good horses win this race. The Pimlico Special has been historically one of the greatest races in America. We’d love to see it a Grade 1 again.”
Bred by St. Simon Place in Kentucky, Rattle N Roll was a $55,000 Keeneland November weanling who commanded $210,000 as a September yearling at the same venue. The chestnut is by the Curlin stallion Connect and out of the Johannesburg mare Jazz Tune, a descendant of the influential matron Dance Review. Another hailing from this female line is multiple Grade 1 victress Cavorting, dam of $2.8 million-earner and recent Apple Blossom (G1) heroine Clairiere.