Friday's stakes-laden card at Pimlico is anchored by the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (GII). Though there is no generally agreed-upon "filly Triple Crown", the Black-Eyed Susan is a fillies' complement to the next day's Preakness Stakes (GI). It attracts similar sorts of horses, the elite and rising dirt route fillies, as it is run at the same mile and an eighth distance as the Kentucky Oaks.
Saturday, Picks and Ponderings splits its attention between Pimlico and Arlington. We will have full previews of the Preakness Stakes and the Dixie Stakes (GII), as well as selections for all stakes races at Pimlico on Saturday. We will also have a full preview of Saturday's Hanshin Cup (GIII) at Arlington, the first local stakes race of the year.
The Black-Eyed Susan began its life in 1919 as a 1 1/6 mile race known as the Pimlico Oaks; its name was changed to recognise Maryland's state flower in 1952. Through its history it has been run at distances as short as a mile and 70 yards and as long as a mile and an eighth; it has been at its current mile and an eighth consistently since 1989.
Though its current place the day before the Preakness makes a sweep of this race all but impossible nowadays, one filly won both the Pimlico Oaks and the Preakness Stakes: Nellie Morse, in 1924. In more recent times, a pair of Black-Eyed Susan winners have gone on to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff: Stopchargingmaria (2014) won last year's edition, and Royal Delta (2011) won it at ages three and four.
Stopchargingmaria puts away a determined Vero Amore to win the 2014 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
You can watch the Black-Eyed Susan, as well as all races at Pimlico, on a free live stream on the racetrack website. For radio coverage, tune into Horse Racing Radio Network between 4:00pm and 5:00pm Eastern for coverage of the Black-Eyed Susan as well as the Pimlico Special. NBC Sports Network will provide televised coverage from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm ET from Pimlico.
Morning lines were not available at original publish time. Updated overnight on May 16 to include morning lines.
Race 11: Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, three-year-old fillies, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 4:50pm EDT
This year's edition of the Black-Eyed Susan drew a field of fourteen sophomore fillies, including two wheeling back from the Kentucky Oaks. The spoils include a $250,000 purse, as well as a 2017 no-guarantee breeding season to Ghostzapper for the winner.
Though the Oaks horses deserve serious respect here, we will look on top to someone who is not coming back after just two weeks: MIDNIGHT ON OCONEE. She is not a new face to the three-year-old scene, as she contested the series of Fair Grounds preps through the winter and spring. However, after a sub-par showing in the Fair Grounds Oaks, she went on the shelf for a few months instead of pressing on to Churchill Downs. Still, she has been on the worktab at Delaware since mid-April, and has come back well from a similar-length layoff before. Furthermore, few trainers have as good a record with three-year-old fillies as hers: Larry Jones. He is a person you can trust to get MIDNIGHT ON OCONEE ready for this. Furthermore, her running style should suit this. Though stretch-out type KINSLEY KISSES looks the speed of the speed, MIDNIGHT ON OCONEE should not be far off, and she has shown a pressing and even stalking gear. The Beaumont exposed KINSLEY KISSES as likely one-way speed, and with CCED in the field and bomb DOUBLE ENTENDRE going blinkers-on, she is not guaranteed to get her trip. MIDNIGHT ON OCONEE, on the other hand, has known two-turn form, and does not need the lead.
GO MAGGIE GO is another who should be stalking not too far from the early pace. Though she wheels back in two weeks from the Kentucky Oaks, such a quick return is nothing she hasn't done before. She broke her maiden in mid-March, and came back in less than three weeks to score in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Though that victory came in the slop (a condition unlikely for Friday at Pimlico), she graduated over a dry track. She also proved in the Kentucky Oaks that she was not just a Gulfstream Park Horse. Farther off the pace than she had ever been before, and with some trip trouble, she still managed to rally, stay interested, and finish just a neck out of second place. For such an inexperienced horse, GO MAGGIE GO has handled a lot of things thrown at her, and that adaptability should serve her well when facing another fourteen-horse field at another racetrack.
Though LAND OVER SEA will likely go off the favourite, she deserves it. All she does is run. She racked up a pile of "second to Songbird" medals in California. But, she does not need to be Songbird to have a great shot to win this race. She proved she could ship out of California, winning the Fair Grounds Oaks and finishing a late-charging second behind Cathryn Sophia in the Kentucky Oaks. The pace may hurt her case here, as it may not get quite hot enough for her to get all the way there. Still, LAND OVER SEA has proven more than anyone in this field that she can ship, handle big fields, and just run. It would be a shock for her not to finish on the board.
#9 MIDNIGHT ON OCONEE (15/1)
#5 GO MAGGIE GO (5/2)
#3 LAND OVER SEA (2/1)
Longshot: Yes, #6 SHE'S A WARRIOR (6/1) is a maiden. But, in six starts, she has not missed the board, and that includes a pair of third-place finishes behind Songbird in California prep races. Her speed figures are competitive against the horses she faces today, and though she has never run in a fourteen-horse field, SHE'S A WARRIOR has acquitted herself well in fields of nine, ten, eleven horses. Though she has not raced outside of California yet, trainer Peter Eurton's 25% win rate with shippers suggests he means business when he loads a horse on a plane. Furthermore, his positive ROI with shippers means his winners go off at prices -- and between the large field and the fact that she is still a maiden, SHE'S A WARRIOR will be exactly that. For anyone looking for a price to spice up their exotics, here she is.
Below are all of our picks -- from both Nicolle Neulist and Paul Mazur -- for the stakes races on Friday's card at Pimlico. This will be updated as we finish handicapping the card. If you have questions about why we landed on a particular horse, please leave us a comment, or tweet us at @picksponderings!
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