The three-year-old scene got a bit of a breather last week, as the biggest race on that segment of the calendar was the Peter Pan (G3), where Blended Citizen finally put the dirt route potential on his pedigree page into action, kicking home and putting his name into the Belmont (G1) discussion.
But, with the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for fillies on Friday and the Preakness Stakes (G1) for open company on Saturday, all eyes turn to Baltimore. And, as has been the recent trend, both Black-Eyed Susan Day and Preakness Days are Big Race Days, with the requisite stakes-packed cards. In this piece, we will look horse-by-horse at the field of the Black-Eyed Susan, and also provide picks for the undercard stakes. Those include the Skipat S. for older filly and mare sprinters (headlined by VERTICAL OAK, a daughter of the great Illinois-bred Giant Oak), the Miss Preakness (G3) for three-year-old sprint fillies (a field that includes the graded stakes debut of Illinois-bred ARTISTIC DIVA), the Pimlico Special (G3) for the handicap division, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, the Hilltop Stakes for three-year-old turf fillies, and the Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3) for the filly and mare dirt route division.
The weather this week in Baltimore calls for quite a bit of rain. So, our selections will lean toward wetter conditions: an off dirt track, and turf with cut in it. Should the forecast change later in the week we will reassess, but for right now, wet weather looks the theme of the week in Baltimore.
Selections for the Jim McKay Turf Sprint and Hilltop Stakes are for turf only. Morning lines were not available at original publish time. Edited Thursday, May 17 to add morning lines. Edited Thursday, May 17 to account for the defection of MIDNIGHT DISGUISE from the Black-Eyed Susan.
Race 11: Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2), three-year-old fillies, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 4:48pm EDT
The Black-Eyed Susan began its life in 1919 as a 1 1/16 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 and the Preakness 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 at age four, and Royal Delta (2011) won the race (then known as the Ladies' Classic) twice, at ages three and four.
- TELL YOUR MAMA (20/1) - The lone maiden in the field, TELL YOUR MAMA has done her better work so far over an off track. But, even then...her better work so far is still a ways off from what she needs to be competitive against these foes. Last year a maiden got her diploma in the Black-Eyed Susan, but this year, it's not going to happen.
MIDNIGHT DISGUISE (4/1) - Her Gazelle was bad, perplexingly so. But, since then, MIDNIGHT DISGUISE has posted a couple of solid works at Aqueduct. She puts blinkers on for the first time -- a 25% winning move for trainer Linda Rice -- and switches back to Irad Ortiz, the jockey who booted her home in her first two starts. These are all positive moves. It's also a good thing that she has already won going nine furlongs, and that she has been able to close into even a moderate pace in front of her. Though MIDNIGHT DISGUISE hasn't tried the slop yet, her pedigree suggests she'll take to it well enough. All in all, she is a major player.(MIDNIGHT DISGUISE will scratch due to a foot bruise.)
- COACH ROCKS (7/2) - COACH ROCKS is another who comes out from a disappointing last-out to the Black-Eyed Susan. But, her last-out was just two weekends ago, in the Kentucky Oaks, where she was well enough placed and just empty late. Her trainer, Dale Romans, has some recent success putting a horse from the Oaks into the Black-Eyed Susan; two years ago, he wheeled Go Maggie Go back from the Oaks, and won the Black-Eyed Susan. But? Go Maggie Go was coming off a solid yet troubled race in the Oaks, not a flat one like COACH ROCKS. Her two races before that were solid enough not to want to call her a total bust, especially since she has shown some pace versatility. But, it's hard to imagine she'll be the right price to bet she'll reverse form in just two weeks.
- RED RUBY (5/1) - She skipped the Oaks after a disappointing fourth at odds-on in the Honeybee (G3). But? Two back in the Martha Washington, RED RUBY romped over a sloppy track. With so much rain in the forecast, RED RUBY moves up. With tactical speed, and a pedigree that suggests she'll take nicely to nine furlongs, the Black-Eyed Susan looks like an excellent spot for her return.
- MIHRAB (30/1) - After a poor outing in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), MIHRAB got back on the rails with a decisive victory last out in an allowance at Laurel. Her connections are solid and dependable on the local circuit, trainer Graham Motion and rider Jevian Toledo. And, Toledo has been aboard for both of MIHRAB's two victories. This filly has tactical speed, a respectable mud pedigree, and a decent pedigree for the distance. She has to run her best to figure, but if she does, she could have a say at a square price.
- C. S. INCHARGE (15/1) - Like COACH ROCKS, C. S. INCHARGE represents the Dale Romans barn. She'll probably be the longer priced of the two runners from the barn, as she comes out of a well-beaten outing in the Ashland (G1) earlier this sprint. But, the weather plays in her favour: her half-brother Cherry Wine was second in a sloppy Preakness two years ago, and C. S. INCHARGE broke her maiden over the slop at Gulfstream earlier this year. She does her best on or near the lead; with SARA STREET and GOODONEHONEY in the field, it may not be easy. But, with a stalking gear proven in the Suncoast, she isn't impossible.
- GOODONEHONEY (5/1) - GOODONEHONEY punched her ticket to the Black-Eyed Susan with a seven-length score in the Weber City Miss, which offers an automatic bid to this race. That was only her second career race; in her debut, she beat $40K maiden claimers, also at Laurel. The mud may not hurt her -- though she hasn't tried a wet track yet, her sire Great Notion has seen real success on off tracks, with 20% wins across 410 starts. The class, however, raises a real question -- especially since, with SARA STREET and C. S. INCHARGE in the field, she won't have an easy time up front.
- INDY UNION (10/1) - INDY UNION rallied from nowhere to finish a well-beaten second behind GOODONEHONEY in the Weber City Miss. Her maiden victory suggests she doesn't have to drop that far back, which is a positive; also a positive is that Jose Ortiz, who rode during that maiden victory, returns to the irons here. (Junior Alvarado had ridden in the Weber City Miss.) The pedigree is solid for nine furlongs, Union Rags out of an A. P. Indy mare. The one nine-furlong outing (in the G2 Demoiselle) was not great, but that was at age two, and perhaps a bit of age is helpful. As for the off track? She ran a solid third at Saratoga over a sloppy surface, three lengths behind eventual champion juvenile filly Caledonia Road, suggesting that she's a better off-track horse than her 2: 0-0-1 off-track line suggests she may be.
- SARA STREET (4/1) - SARA STREET did not win either of the two Oaks prep stakes she tried in New York, but she did finish second in both. Instead of routing to the Oaks, though, she turns up here. Her speed and class make her a cozy fit for this race. She should be close to the pace, but has an ability to stalk or fight. The off track is a question, but SARA STREET has a solid enough off-track pedigree to suggest she will take to it. She is well-spotted, and a major contender.
- STAKES ON A PLANE (20/1) - It's a positive that she has an allowance win over a sloppy track. But, stakes company has proven a bridge too far so far, and this group is even tougher than what she has faced to date. Sure, STAKES ON A PLANE adds Lasix here for the first time, but that's not likely to move her up enough to contend. Her name delights me, but her chances don't.
#9 SARA STREET (4/1)
#4 RED RUBY (5/1)
#8 INDY UNION (10/1)
Longshot: #5 MIHRAB (30/1)
Below are Nicolle Neulist's picks for the stakes races Friday at Pimlico. This will be updated as they finish handicapping the card. If you have questions about the logic behind any of these picks, please leave a comment or tweet us at @picksponderings!
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