Best Pal continued his preparations for the May 9 Pimlico Special by working five-eighths of a mile in 1 minute, 1 1/5 seconds, breezing yesterday morning at Pimlico Race Course.
"The track was soft and sluggish, so I kept him to the outside," said exercise rider Ruben Hernandez. Officially, the surface was rated "good" when Best Pal worked immediately after the harrow break at 8:30 a.m.
His time was the fastest among 11 horses drilling at five furlongs.
Trainer Gary Jones flew in for the work and caught a flight back to California immediately afterward. Hernandez indicated Jones was satisfied.
Jones will return to oversee the rest of Best Pal's pre-race work May 4 or 5, which Hernandez said would be five to seven furlongs. The race is at 1 3/16 miles, and Jones will make the final determination on running after the final drill.
Former Maryland riding star Kent Desormeaux will fly in from California to ride during the last tuneup. Desormeaux has become Best Pal's regular jockey.
The $700,000 Pimlico Special is the fourth leg of the American Championship Racing Series. Best Pal will be attempting to make it his fifth consecutive victory and third in series competition.
Another Special starter, Twilight Agenda, worked six furlongs in 1:14 yesterday at Churchill Downs. The horse is due for one more drill in Kentucky before a final workout at Pimlico.
So far, Defensive Play, Out of Place and Fly So Free are also pointing for the Special, with local runner Valley Crossing, Strike The Gold and Green Alligator listed as possibilities.
* Jockey Mario Pino averted injury yesterday when the new boots he was wearing slipped and he was unseated from Air Charge shortly after crossing the finish line in the fifth race.
Air Charge, a first-time starter, finished second in the maiden race to Chas Fantasy, a result that held because the rider was still aboard at the wire. Pino got to his feet immediately and walked away, then came back to win the next race aboard Dress Optional.
Leading jockey Edgar Prado dominated the nine-race card with four winners.
* Trainer Annette Eubanks has been suspended for 15 days beginning Sunday after her horse, Van Buren Bay, tested positive for excessive amounts of a tranquilizer.
The horse finished second in the fourth race April 5, but was disqualified and placed out of the money. The wagering was not affected by the ruling.