Jockey Charlie Marquez.
Pimlico Race Course brought the curtain down on its extended Preakness Meet Sunday with veteran Claudio Gonzalez and teenage sensation Charlie Marquez formally wrapping up their respective titles as leading trainer and jockey at the historic track in Baltimore, Md.
Gonzalez had one starter on Sunday’s nine-race program, running fourth with Blue Sky Painter in Race 7, concluding the two-month stand with 40 wins, more than twice that of runners-up Mike Trombetta and Kieron Magee (19). It marked the second straight Preakness Meet title and 17th overall in Maryland for Gonzalez, a 44-year-old cancer survivor.
Among Gonzalez’s meet highlights were stakes wins by Harpers First Ride in the July 31 Deputed Testamony and both Miss Leslie in the Weber City Miss and Completed Pass in the King T. Leatherbury April 24.
Originally scheduled to run May 6-31, the Preakness Meet began April 22 when racing was shifted from Laurel Park in Laurel, Md., following an equine herpesvirus outbreak and later extended due to a complete reconstruction of Laurel’s main track. Horses and personnel, relocated to various facilities including Pimlico and the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, returned to Laurel April 8.
“It feels good,” Gonzalez said. “It was a little different this year. The good thing for me is, I had my horses at Pimlico and I believe that’s better for the horses when you’re training where you run. It makes it easier for us and the help, everybody.
“They do the hard work. Everybody sees my name or another title, but if you don’t have the right help, I don’t make it,” he added. “It’s the truth. I have to thank all my help.”
Gonzalez has won both full meets in Maryland this year following Laurel’s winter stand, and was leading its spring meet standings when live racing was moved to Pimlico after just four days. He has been Maryland’s overall leading trainer by wins each of the past four years.
“You feel pressure because people might think it’s easy to win titles or win races. It’s not that easy. It takes a lot of hard work,” Gonzalez said. “I have to thank all the owners for supporting me and giving me a chance. The owners I have are really good and they understand where we are with the horses and putting them in the right spots.”
Gonzalez said GMP Stables, Arnold Bennewith, and Cypress Creek Equine’s Harpers First Ride, a five-time stakes winner for Gonzalez including the historic Grade 3 Pimlico Special in 2020 and back-to-back editions of the Deputed Testamony, is getting some time off. He is 2-for-2 since rejoining Gonzalez in May after being sold in January and making three starts for Midwest-based trainer Robertino Diodoro.
“I talked with the owners and we decided to give him a little rest. He has run a couple good races with us and he deserves and he needs a little break,” Gonzalez said. “It all depends on how he looks on the farm where he is. Maybe we give him a few months over there and then we’ll see how he does.”
Marquez, 18, captured Pimlico’s Sunday opener aboard Lost Uncle ($4.40) to give him 49 wins. J.D. Acosta finished second with 40 wins, two ahead of Jevian Toledo in third.
It is the first career riding title for Marquez, a native of Columbia, Md., whose 58 wins made him Maryland’s leading apprentice of 2020. He had two or more wins on a single card 14 times at the Preakness Meet, during which he graduated to journeyman status May 30 and also posted multi-win days at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., and Delaware Park in Wilmington, Del.
Marquez is represented by Tom Stift. Marty Leonard, who has Sheldon Russell and Toledo as clients, had been booking mounts for Marquez but agents are not allowed to carry three journeymen.
“It means a lot to me,” Marquez said. “We moved here in April and to hold the lead all the way until now is pretty hard to do, a lot of the riders say. I’m proud of myself, and I can’t help but think of and thank everyone that helped me.
“My mom, who brought me up and got me familiar with everyone. My agents, that put me on live horses. Just everyone that gave me opportunities, really,” he added. “Everything goes to them. I’m just the passenger.”
Super C Racing finished as leading owner with nine wins, one more than Joseph Besecker and Robert D. Bone.
Highlighting the Preakness Meet was the 146th Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, returned to mid-May after being pushed back to October last year during an altered stakes schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. It was won by Rombauer, giving trainer Mike McCarthy his first Triple Crown race victory.
Army Wife won the prestigious Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies, the traditional Preakness Eve feature. Other graded-stakes winners over Preakness weekend were Last Judgment in the Pimlico Special, Somelikeithotbrown in the Grade 2 Dinner Party, Red Ghost in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness, Spice is Nice in the Grade 3 Allaire du Pont, Mighty Mischief in the Grade 3 Chick Lang, Mean Mary in the Grade 3 Gallorette, and Special Reserve in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint.
Live racing in Maryland moves to Timonium for the State Fair Meet Aug. 27-29 and Sept. 3-6 before returning to Laurel Park for its calendar year-ending fall stand starting Thursday, Sept. 9.
Laurel’s grandstand will be open Wednesdays through Sundays during the State Fair Meet. The entire main floor of the clubhouse will be open on Saturdays as well as the grandstand’s Sports Book bar.
Doors will open at 11 a.m. at Laurel Saturday, Aug. 28 to accommodate a first-race post of 11:35 a.m. at Saratoga for its Travers Day program.
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