Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel headed to the winner’s circle Friday after the Pimlico Special, unsure whether he would be needed.
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His horse, Alternation, had just run brilliantly down the stretch in a duel with hard-charging Nehro — and won by a nose.
”I couldn’t quite see well enough to call the photo,” Von Hemel said. ”I was walking down and someone told me they thought we had gotten it. It was a head-bob.”
It was the fourth straight victory for Alternation, who won this very tight Grade 3 race with an excellent ride by jockey Luis Quinonez.
”Everything went great, especially when you get there first,” Quinonez said. ”There were a couple horses making the pace. We put him where he was comfortable, and we waited them out and rode hard to the wire.”
Nehro closed gamely had to settle for second in the $300,000, Grade 3 race. Endorsement took third, a length behind Nehro and a neck ahead of Mission Impazible.
”He was very unlucky to lose the head-bob like that,” Nehro trainer Steve Asmussen said. ”But he ran great.”
Endorsement led for much of the 1-3/16 miles but didn’t have the energy to go the distance for jockey Martin Garcia.
”The trip was OK,” Garcia said. ”I got him to a spot to win, but he just didn’t have enough at the end.”
Alternation returned $10.20 on a $2 win bet.
Mission Impazible was saddled by trainer Todd Pletcher, who had the winner and runner-up in the Black-Eyed Susan two races earlier. Mission Impazible went off as the favorite but started poorly and couldn’t make up the difference.
”We got stuck wide and weren’t able to run our race,” jockey Javier Castellano said. ”He came, but never had great position.”
It was the 42nd running of the Pimilco Special but the first since 2008. It was removed from the stakes schedule because of a purse shortage.
Previous winners include War Admiral (1937), Seabiscuit (1938), Whirlaway (1942) and Strike the Gold (1992).