When Kieron Magee first came to Maryland four decades ago to gallop horses for Dale Capuano, then the state’s dominant trainer, fall racing meant a return to historic Pimlico Race Course.
Training on his own since 2007 and closing in on 1,000 career wins, Magee has that familiar feeling again as live racing shifts to Old Hilltop this weekend for its first regularly scheduled fall stand in nearly two decades.
“It’s been my home for 40 years. I love it,” said Magee, who is based year-round at Pimlico. “For years we always had a fall meet at Pimlico. It’s taken a while for things to come back around, but I’m so glad it’s finally here again.”
Starting Sept. 9, Pimlico will host a nine-day fall meet that runs through Sept. 25 with racing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Post time will be 12:40 pm ET
A total of eight stakes worth $875,000 in purses will be offered, starting with a Sept. 10 quartet led by the $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3T), expected to draw millionaire defending champion Field Pass and fellow multiple graded-stakes winner Set Piece as well as Group 2-winning European import Pao Alto.
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Best known as the home of the Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, and the second-oldest racetrack in the country behind Saratoga, Pimlico conducted racing for six days from Sept. 24 to Oct. 3, 2020 when its Preakness Meet was moved from its usual May spot on the calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Without all the hoopla that surrounds the Triple Crown, the last regularly scheduled fall meet came in 2004 when Capuano and jockey Ryan Fogelsonger led their respective standings during the calendar-year ending stand. For the trainer, a career winner of more than 3,600 races, it was the 16th of his 18 career titles at Pimlico and 10th in a row.
“That’s when we were really rolling,” Capuano, 59, said. His 30 wins were five better than Scott Lake with Rodney Jenkins third and Kenny Cox fourth, all of whom still run regularly in Maryland. “We had a different stable then. It was a lot larger and pretty strong across the board. We had about 80 horses or so during that span, and now we have half that amount. We did pretty well for a while.
“I’ve always liked Pimlico. Even when I was stabled at Bowie and then moved over to Laurel, I’ve always liked it. Pimlico has always been good to me. I’ve always had decent luck there,” he added. “I like it because it’s not as big a track as Laurel so when you’re watching the races you’re able to see more and you’re closer to the action. You’re more involved with it. The real large tracks, you’re just removed from the action. At Pimlico, you’re on top of it and to me that’s always been a good thing. It’s just a nice change.”
Fogelsonger dominated the 2004 meet with 83 wins, 30 more than Eric Camacho, followed by Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton and future Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez, who had the highest winning percentage at 30 (33-110). Horacio Karamanos, who tied for Laurel Park’s 2022 summer title, ranked eighth with 25 wins.
A 61-year-old native of Ireland who led all Maryland trainers in wins from 2014-2016, Magee has won four of his nine meet titles at Pimlico, the most recent coming in 2018 when he shared the spring crown with Mary Eppler and Jerry Robb.
“Everybody knows the name Pimlico and the history there. Even if you’re not into horse racing, everybody knows Pimlico. When I heard [the fall meet] was going to happen I was thrilled,” Magee said. “I’m very excited. Hopefully it’s the first of many.”
Magee, who has 925 career wins, entered two horses on Friday’s nine-race program, Dat Deres Gold and Welling. Moshe Mark’s Dat Deres Gold, an 8-year-old mare with 12 career wins, drew outermost Post 6 in Race 4, a six-furlong starter allowance for fillies and mares 3 and older. Neal Berch’s Welling, a gelded 6-year-old son of Hall of Famer Curlin, will break from the rail as the co-126-pound topweight in Race 8, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up.
Also in Friday’s co-feature are Badger Tooth, a winner of two straight before going to the sidelines following a Jan. 22 victory at Laurel; Dream Big Dreams, fifth in the 2021 Maryland Million Classic making his second start of the year and first as a gelding; Seven On the Rocks, an open allowance winner June 10 at Laurel; and Alpha Queue and Vinny, both racing first time for new connections.
Capuano has horses entered in three races Friday: Love Machine and Imagine It All in Race 5, a one-mile claiming event for maidens age 3, 4 and 5 scheduled for a mile on the grass; Walk Away Joe, a two-time winner last summer at Pimlico in Race 6, a starter-optional claimer for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles; and Sue Loves Barbados in Race 7, a one-mile turf allowance for Maryland-bred/sired 3- year-olds and up.
Friday’s opening day card also includes a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight scheduled on the grass for 2-year-old fillies in Race 3 that drew a field of nine including Bode’s Heritage, a daughter of Bodemeister that is the lone first- time starter, and main-track-only entrant Bella Paloma. Among the group are Sun Bee and Lifelovenlaughter, respectively second and third in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight Aug. 16 at Colonial Downs, separated by a neck.
The field also includes Michael Ryan’s Positive Message, a Kingman filly bred in England and trained by Graham Motion that finished eighth in her unveiling Aug. 21 at Saratoga. A winner of more than 2,600 career races including the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) with Animal Kingdom and four Breeders’ Cup races, the 58-year-old Motion has been based in Maryland since launching his career in 1993 following the retirement of his mentor, Bernard Bond.
“My Maryland roots started at Pimlico with Bernie Bond, so it’s kind of always a bit of a homecoming coming back,” Motion said. “It will be a unique meet and we’re looking forward to it.”
The BWI Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up going one mile is joined on Saturday’s program by the $100,000 All Along for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles, also carded for the grass headlined by Grade 2 winner Plum Ali, and a pair of six-furlong dirt sprints: the $100,000 Lite the Fuse for 3-year-olds and up featuring Grade 3-winning Maryland-bred Jaxon Traveler and $100,000 Shine Again for fillies and mares 3 and older that have not won an open sweepstakes.
Closing weekend of Pimlico’s fall stand will also have four stakes Saturday, Sept. 24 led by the $100,000 Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles and $100,000 Weather Vane for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs. There will also be a pair of five-furlong turf sprints: the $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up and $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash for fillies and mares 3 and older.
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