By Gene Kershner
BALTIMORE, Md. –- We’ve arrived in Maryland and are set to enjoy an action-packed weekend that culminates in the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course. On tap Friday afternoon is the 1 1/8-mile $300,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. Friday’s card also sees the return of the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, a race last run in 2008.
The 88th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features nine fillies trying to step up within the 3-year-old filly division, which saw Believe You Can and Rosie Napranik strike first blood in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4. Last year’s Black-Eyed Susan winner Royal Delta went on to win the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award after winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (formerly the Distaff) at Churchill Downs last November.
This year’s race will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (4 p.m.) as part of NBC’s weekend coverage of the Preakness Stakes.
Let’s take a look at the field for the Black-Eyed Susan (trainer, jockey, odds in parenthesis):
1 – Glinda The Good (Asmussen, Nakatani, 12-1) – Hard Spun filly draws the rail and comes out of a non-graded stakes win at Oaklawn Park where the second place finisher came back to win next time out. Has late speed and the pedigree to handle 9-furlongs. In the mix.
2 – Disposablepleasure (Pletcher, J Castellano, 5-1) – Solid connections that one may be able to get a decent price on based on her last two outings. She finished nine lengths behind the Kentucky Oaks winner in her last outing holding the show in the Fair Grounds Oaks in late March. Her work looks solid and she could be sitting on a big race. Trainer Pletcher agrees, “I think the mile-and-an-eighth will suit her well, so we’re optimistic that she’ll show up and run her ‘A’ race.” Interesting.
3 – Welcome Guest (Brown, Dominguez, 4-1) – Lightly raced filly stretches out for the first time in her fourth career race. Chad Brown is having an outstanding year so far, so don’t dismiss this one too quickly. She ran a formidable second to the second place Kentucky Oaks finisher in her last effort. Exotics play.
4 – Mamma Kimbo (Baffert, Smith, 7-5) – Discreet Cat filly has been working lights out for Baffert and although she has only raced twice, she looks to be the one to beat after dominating the competition in her debut. Clockers were fawning over her work over the Pimlico strip earlier in the week. The Fantasy runners didn’t fare that well in the Oaks, but this one looks primed and ready and Baffert picked this spot specifically.
5 – Oaks Lily (Hills, Leparoux, 30-1) – Finally broke her maiden at Keeneland in her eight career race. It would be a shocker if she prevailed against this level of competition.
6 – Plum (Jenkins, A Castellano, 30-1) - Local horse and rider attempt to shock the division. Positive work tab and comes in second off the layoff, but will be seriously class tested in the Susan.
7 - In Lingerie (Pletcher, Velazquez, 9-2) – Her best two efforts were on the polytrack at Turfway Park, which presents questions. On the dirt at Gulfstream, she finished four back of ZoImpressive. “She ran a very credible race the first time we ran her,” Pletcher said. “She missed the break and got some dirt in her face for the first time, and finished up well to a really nice filly, so we were pleased with that.” The Empire Maker filly shouldn’t have an issue with the 9-furlongs, and sports an impressive 4-furlong work earlier in the month. Their probably won’t be a lot of value here due to the sterling connections, but tough to toss on surface issue alone.
8 – Wildcat’s Smile (Galluscio, Napravnik, 10-1) – Rosie looks to sweep the second filly jewel aboard the Forest Wildcat filly. She finished second by a nose in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct last winter, so she can handle the 9-furlongs. She did take on the boys, winning the $260,000 New York Bredders’ Futurity last fall at nearby Finger Lakes. However, others look more enticing.
9 – Zucchini Flower (Motion, Russell, 10-1) – Motion uses local rider and stretches the Flower Alley filly out for the first time. Motion puts her in here for a reason. Possibly an exotics play underneath in trifectas and superfectas, but I don’t think she’s a win threat.
Post Time Outlook – 1 – Mamma Kimbo; 2 – Disposablepleasure; 3 – In Lingerie; 4 – Welcome Guest
Good luck and let’s cash some tickets.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.