By Gene Kershner
Seven fillies will vie for top honors in the $250,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Friday afternoon as a prelude to Saturday's Preakness Stakes. The race has been run since 1919 when it was known as the Pimlico Oaks. It was renamed in 1952 as an acknowledgement to the state flower of Maryland, which ironically doesn't bloom until June. The official drink of the Preakness goes by the same name.
Five other stakes are on the 13-race Friday card, which also includes the inaugural Female Jockey Challenge and the Lady Legends for the Cure, a parimutuel event featuring eight retired female riders. The Black-Eyed Susan will be run at 1 1/8 miles and is Race 10 on the card. The race will be televised live by Versus at 4 p.m. Friday.
The 87th renewal of the Black-Eyed Susan has attracted some rock solid fillies; let's take a look at them and how they rate coming into the race (trainer, jockey and morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 -- Royal Delta (Mott, Lezcano, 3-1). This lightly raced filly comes into the race third off the layoff for trainer Bill Mott after firing in a big allowance win at Keeneland last month. She looks to avenge her defeat at the hands of 4-Wyomia in Tampa in March. She faces graded company for the first time and the Empire Maker filly should have no trouble with the distance. She's been training lights out at Belmont Park and is generating a lot of buzz. She receives a 6-pound weight break to 2-Hot Summer and 4-Wyomia.
2 -- Hot Summer (Fawkes, Dominguez, 5-2). Trainer David Fawkes had a terrific winter and brings Hot Summer to Baltimore after an impressive victory in the 1-mile, Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct. The only race in which she missed the board was in her 2011 debut in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, where she was beaten more than 15 lengths at Gulfstream Park.
"You have to throw that race out. It wasn't the way I wanted her to be ridden," Fawkes said. "I think when she comes from off the pace; she's a much nicer horse. I thought she would benefit from a race back, and she did."
The Malibu Moon filly out of Summer Delight also comes in third off the layoff and shouldn't have a problem with the 1-1/8 mile distance. "There's always a question when a horse stretches out, but she's bred to run long and I think she will," Fawkes said. "She's the kind of horse that will do anything you ask. She'll switch it off if you want her to. Hopefully, she'll just break and I'm sure Ramon will do a good job, get her relaxed and go from there."
3 -- Coax Victory (Lawrence, Gomez, 8-1). Has raced against tough opponents in the past and has ducked no one. She finished third in her last race at Keeneland, 5 1/2 lengths behind the speedy Turbulent Descent. She's mainly run in sprint races, as this would be only her second route race in her 11th career race. Looking elsewhere.
4 -- Wyomia (Garrison, Leparoux, 9-5). She is the only runner to have a workout over the Pimlico track (left). She's been on site since May 10. "Nobody's bothered us, that's for sure," trainer Curtis Garrison said. "It's been kind of nice. We wanted to get her used to the track and kind of get acclimated to the weather; so far, so good. Everything looks good to go with her. She's a pretty classy filly. She always handles everything good." She was beaten a length in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 9, when jockey Freddie Lenclud lost an iron as she split horses and still managed to finish second. She's the one to beat in the Susan.
5 -- Buster's Ready (Pletcher, Velazquez, 8-1). It's not every day you can get this trainer/jockey combo at 8-1. Bettors let Aikenite go off at 13-1 on Derby Day last weekend and paid for it dearly. Johnny V has big plans this weekend and could garner his fourth Black-Eyed Susan title, which would tie him with Chris McCarron for the all-time lead. With a win, Pletcher would have his third BES title. This filly has the late run and if a speed duel is employed on the front end, this one will be coming late. The More Than Ready filly sports a bullet 4-furlong workout on May 14, so she seems to be peaking at the right time. Dangerous.
6 -- Love Theway Youare (Cho, Rosario, 15-1). Winner of two in a row, this Arch filly ships in from the left coast to take on a formidable crew. Love Rosario aboard and coming in off two straight wins. This will be the filly's seventh race this year. Does she still have enough gas in the tank? She's another one with decent late speed that will look to pick up the pieces if the race falls apart.
7 -- Art Of The Hunt (Campitelli, TBD, 20-1). A hometown filly who will be trying to win one for the locals. Funnier things have happened on big race days, but she seems to be in over her head in here.
Royal Delta's training has her fit and she seems ready to tackle Wyomia in Friday's feature. In addition to playing my top three selections in exacta and trifecta tickets, I'll box my top four in a $0.10 superfecta play (a four-horse superfecta box bet has 24 combinations so a $0.10 superfecta bet costs $2.40).
Post Time Selections:
1 -- Royal Delta; 2 -- Wyomia; 3 -- Buster's Ready; 4 -- Hot Summer.
Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!
Wyomia Photo Credit - Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club