Shaman Ghost outlasts Dolphus to win Pimlico Special

It was reminiscent of the Santa Anita Handicap. Shaman Ghost battling hard down the stretch, this time against Dolphus and then finally putting his head in front a few yards before the wire and winning by a neck.

Only down the stretch it was a little more combative than his race at Santa Anita. Dolphus came off the rail, possibly to try and intimidate Ghost, and then Ghost drifted toward the rail, seemingly squeezing his opponent.

But yet there was no inquiry or objection.

Cynics would describe it this way:

The Jim Jerkens-trained horse on the lead (Dolphus) moves out toward the other Jerkens-trained horse (Shaman Ghost), who is owned by Frank Stronach, and the second Jerkens-trained horse squeezes the first Jerkens horse in a race being run at a Stronach-owned track. The jockey of the first Jerkens horse (Rajiv Maragh) is a regular rider for Jerkens and filed no objection on the second Jerkens horse.

Don’t you just love conspiracies?

Actually, seasoned race observers say there wasn’t enough to warrant an inquiry, although an objection was a possibility. It would have been extremely unlikely the result would have been overturned. But it makes for good theater.

The race was the $300,000 Grade 3 Pimlico Special, 1 3/16 miles on the dirt.

Shaman Ghost proved too much in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 11, his last race. He outdueled Midnight Storm to win in a more convincing three-fourths of a length.

As he did at Santa Anita, the 84-year-old Stronach brought Ghost by the lead to the winner’s circle, just to the right and abutting the large Stronach Group hospitality tent in the infield.

“I thought he [Dolphus] had a shot to hang on,” Jerkens said. “Shaman had a little too much for him, but Dolphus ran terrific. … It’s a great win for Mr. Stronach at his track and it’s great to see Shaman going. Plus, this race fit Shaman’s schedule.”

Winning jockey Javier Castellano was equally complimentary.

“I love the horse and I have so much confidence in him because he reminds me of his father Ghostzapper [winner of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic],” Castellano said. “I’ve been very successful with Mr. Stronach going back to 2004.”

Winning actress

In a bit of an upset, maiden Actress, running only her third race, won the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, considered the second leg of the filly Triple Crown.

She settled near the back through the early stages and slowly moved up, taking the second spot at the top of the stretch, as Simmering Aspen, the favorite, went into a deep fade, finishing seventh over a sloppy track that was labeled as fast.

Actress won by a head, holding off Lights of Medina. Corporate Queen finished third. Actress paid $27.60 to win, $10.60 to place and $7.80 to show. Jason Servis is the trainer and Nik Juarez the jockey.

Not giving away strategy

The form suggests that Conquest Mo Money will try for the lead in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, especially considering he’s in post 10.

But trainer Miguel Hernandez wasn’t giving anything away.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hernandez said. “I know there are a couple of speed horses inside of me [Always Dreaming and Classic Empire]. My horse has speed, too, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen. The only thing I told [jockey] Jorge [Carreno] was ‘be ready.’ I don’t want to say exactly what I’d like to do, but my goal is to be close to the speed.”

Equipment change

Term of Art, the only West Coast-based horse in the Preakness, will be wearing blinkers for the first time. Trainer Doug O’Neill is hoping to focus the horse more and get him in the race sooner.

Term of Art has been under the care of assistant trainer Sabas Rivera. O’Neill was scheduled to arrive late Friday.

“I know my horse doesn’t have a lot of gate speed, so we’ll be coming off the pace,” O’Neill said. “There should be enough speed, which should help us.”

Baffert’s Preakness pick

Like a lot of people, trainer Bob Baffert is jumping on the Always Dreaming bandwagon.

Baffert, winner of six Preakness Stakes, has been absent from the first two Triple Crown races after presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite Mastery was hurt after the finish of the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

“It’s a two-horse race and I give the edge to Always Dreaming,” Baffert told Ed Golden of Santa Anita publicity.

Baffert offered up the Todd Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming without hesitation.

“Him and [Mark] Casse,” Baffert said, referring to Classic Empire.

john.cherwa@latimes.com

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