For Include, the race presents an entree into the highest level of American racing. For Albert the Great, the race presents a chance to stay there.
The Pimlico Special offers a showdown between these two as well as a challenge by four other horses running for $750,000 today at Pimlico Race Course. Albert the Great is the 4-5 morning-line favorite, Include the 3-1 second choice.
Grover G. "Bud" Delp, trainer of Include, and Robert E. Meyerhoff, the colt's breeder and owner, have been pointing to this race since last fall. Everything they've done with Include has been done with the Pimlico Special in mind.
Delp took over Include's conditioning after the colt had lost twice as a 2-year-old for trainer Richard W. Small. Since then, Include, now 4, has won eight of nine races. In his only loss, the Pennsylvania Derby, he suffered a pulled muscle in his right hind leg.
A Maryland-bred son of Broad Brush, Include has been one of the most consistent horses in the country. However, he has won only one graded stakes, the Grade II New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds. The Pimlico Special will be his first test against Grade I company.
"He's a good horse, but he's going to have to step up," Delp said. "These are Grade I horses, and they're genuine. We'd better be on our toes and be ready."
The task will be easier because of who's not running. Tiznow, last year's Horse of the Year, and Captain Steve, winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup, were headed to Pimlico, but an injury to Tiznow and lackadaisical training by Captain Steve kept both horses home .
"We'll take them one at a time," Delp said. "Albert the Great is quite enough, not to mention Pleasant Breeze."
The Daily Racing Form ranks Albert the Great as the third-best older horse in the country, behind Tiznow and Captain Steve. Albert, as his trainer Nick Zito calls him, has competed against top company since last summer, when he finished second to Unshaded in the Travers Stakes.
Last fall, Albert the Great as a 3-year-old defeated older horses in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. This year, he has raced twice, finishing second to Captain Steve in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and then shattering the track record for 1 1/8 miles at Hialeah Park in the Grade III Widener Handicap.
Pleasant Breeze, a 6-year-old trained by H. James Bond, has won seven of 21 races. He finished fourth in the Donn and then ran second to Sir Bear in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap.
Trainer Joe Orseno may saddle two horses, Milwaukee Brew and Laredo. Laredo, an 8-year-old gelding, would run to ensure a fast pace for his stablemate, a closer. Sergeant York, a 5-year-old gelding, will make his first start in this country after 33 races in England. He has won only three.
PP* Horse............... Odds
1 Include................... 3-1
2 Pleasant Breeze.. 6-1
3 Albert the Great ....4-5
4 Milwaukee Brew.... 4-1**
5 Laredo .....................4-1**
6 Sergeant York........ 8-1
*-Post position and betting number differ. Check program before wagering. **-Milwaukee Brew and Laredo are a coupled entry. Both are owned by Stronach Stable.