Preakness Preview Bucket: Jerkens enjoys this Ghost story

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Whether working for his late Hall of Fame father or since going out on his own now 20 years ago, trainer Jimmy Jerkens has been around good horses all his life. He’s confident his current stable star will wind up shining brightest of all.

Stronach Stable’s multiple Grade 1 winner Shaman Ghost is the 4-5 morning-line favorite among 10 older horses set to gather for Friday’s$300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special, the richest of seven stakes, four graded, on the Black-Eyed Susan Day program at Pimlico Race Course.

Jerkens’ long list of stakes winners includes millionaires and Grade 1 winners Effinex, Artie Schiller, Wicked Strong, Corinthian and V.E. Day. Shaman Ghost’s $3,539,311 is the highest earner of any horse Jerkens has trained, towering above his Pimlico Special rivals. Defending champion Noble Bird is next at $1.3 million.

 With Jerkens Shaman Ghost has three wins, a second and two thirds from seven starts with $2,851,000 in earnings. His victories include the Woodward and Brooklyn last year and Santa Anita Handicap March 11  in his last start.

“He’s up there, no question, with what he’s done the last couple years,” Jerkens said. “Artie Schiller on the turf was very good for a couple years and Wicked Strong developed into a nice horse. This guy, especially if he goes on and finishes out the year good, he’ll probably be the best one.”

Shaman Ghost came to Jerkens after a sophomore campaign during which he won the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, and lost the second leg of its Triple Crown series by a neck in the Prince of Wales. Subsequent ankle surgery ended his season but he was voted the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top 3-year-old male.

 “I don’t know if he’ll run next year or not. I guess it depends on soundness issues and all that kind of stuff. Knock on wood, everything’s good,” Jerkens said. “I don’t really anticipate any problems but you always have to stay guarded when you have horses that run as hard as that. And, he trains very hard, too. He’s never run good races without training very hard, so we didn’t want to change that part of it.”

In company with Stronach-owned stablemate Flying Bullet, Shaman Ghost tuned up for the Pimlico Special with a bullet 5-furlong move in :59 May 10 over the Belmont Park training track that surprised even his trainer.

 “That training track hasn’t been yielding fast times for quite a while, but that particular day it was after the second break and it had just the right amount of water on it to make it nice and bouncy and the horses were getting over it,” Jerkens said. “It really stood out because – they did have a couple of fast works that day, one out of the gate was fast – surrounding that day the times were slow. Depending on how you look at it, it could really look like a super work.

 “[Flying Bullet] didn’t offer much, I just wanted [Shaman Ghost] to have a target to make sure he worked good. Every once in a while when he’s by himself he’ll loaf a little bit and I thought the track was kind of slow, and that’s when they really loaf. We didn’t have any time to spare so I wanted to make sure he worked good by having a workmate. Of course, he blew his doors off. It’s always nice to see. You’re always a lot more confident when they work good than when they don’t. Some horses can fool you; they can run good off a bad work or they just know the difference.”

Shaman Ghost, a 5-year-old bay son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, didn’t debut until late fall of his 2-year-old season and his first win didn’t come until late spring as a 3-year-old, the first of four straight victories that culminated in the Queen’s Plate. He will be ridden in the Pimlico Special from Post 5 by Hall of Famer-elect Javier Castellano.

 “People are realizing that Ghostzapper is a good stallion. His horses develop in time and that’s what you want,” Jerkens said. “It seems like it takes them a while to get their [act] together but once they do they like it and they’re competitive and they show good quality, just like he was. We all know they don’t always pass it on but he’s become one of the premiere stallions now.”