If Devil His Due wins his second straight Pimlico Special
today, he moves into an elite group of thoroughbreds.
The $360,000 winner's share will increase the horse's lifetime earnings to $3,182,485 and rank him 20th on the list of all-time leading money earners.
Only 22 horses in the history of the sport have earned $3 million or more. The leader is Alysheba, who retired in 1988 with winnings of $6,679,242.
Devil His Due currently has $2,822,485 in winnings, making him the third-leading money earner in training.
He is surpassed by Best Pal, with earnings of over $4 million, and Bertrando, who has made $3,024,000.
Best Pal recently moved to Dick Mandella's barn at Hollywood Park after spending several months on the farm. Bertrando is expected to breed as many as 60 mares this spring and then return to the track to resume training in a couple of weeks.
Even though Devil His Due has amassed a mighty bankroll, his trainer, H. Allen Jerkens, said yesterday "he's not a super horse, just a very, very good one. He's pretty durable."
Since he runs best in winter and spring, Devil His Due was kept in training after a disappointing eighth-place finish last fall in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
He fell victim, Jerkens said, to what hurt all of the other New York-based horses who were blanked in California on the Breeders' Cup card -- an unfamiliar racing strip and a long cross-country trip.
Jerkens switched riders on the son of Devil's Bag after his former jockey, Mike Smith, dropped out of the Oaklawn Handicap on April 16 to ride Holy Bull in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.
Jerkens replaced Smith with Wigberto Ramos, a strong finisher who is tied as the second-leading jockey at Hialeah Park and recently was ninth in the standings at Gulfstream Park.
"This is a horse that fools you," Jerkens said. "He will run like he doesn't have something left and he does. If the jock quits riding, then he'll quit, too."
That's why Jerkens picked Ramos. "He rides with a lot of determination and finishes strong," he said.
In last year's Pimlico Special, Devil His Due rallied from fourth in a six-horse field, swung wide at the top of the stretch and then dug in once he got the lead under Herb McCauley and held off Valley Crossing's late run by a length.
The same scenario could take place today.
Greatsilverfleet and As Indicated are expected to set the pace, pressed by Pistols and Roses and long shot Gavel Gate. Devil His Due should rank close to the second flight followed by Valley Crossing.
"After that," Jerkens said. "it's up to the rider and the horse. I expect Valley Crossing to fire his best shot. But I think I've got a top rider and a nice horse. They'll be trying hard."
"Hardboot" invades Md.
Most Maryland bettors don't know Pat Johnson, the 35-year-old jockey who will ride Gavel Gate in the Special.
Johnson, who competes on the Kentucky circuit, picked up the mount on Gavel Gate for trainer Jack Van Berg because he is a natural lightweight and can make the 108 pounds.
Johnson is in the middle of a comeback. Last year, a day after the Kentucky Derby, Johnson was injured in a training accident at Churchill Downs, shattering his lower left leg in six places.
It took more than six months for him to recover. His first winning post-recovery mount came at Oaklawn Park in February on Prize Fight.
Johnson, who began riding in 1980, won the Derby Trial on Savings in 1986 and won the Rebel Stakes and Essex Handicap at Oaklawn in 1988. He finished 17th in the 1988 Kentucky Derby on Sea Trek.
Nick Zito, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner, Go For Gin, and the 1992 Pimlico Special winner, Strike the Gold, will be the guest speaker today at Pimlico's regular Saturday handicapping seminar, which begins at 11 a.m. on the first floor of the grandstand.
When, where: Today, 5:08 p.m. post, Pimlico Race Course.
Distance, purse: 1 3/16 miles, $600,000 (winner's share $360,000).
TV: Channel 13 (part of ABC's Wide World of Sports, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.).
Supporting card: 12 races, including $200,000 Pimlico Distaff (eighth race, post 4:02 p.m.)