By Gene Kershner
BALTIMORE, Md. – We’ve arrived and are ready to kickoff a great weekend at Old Hilltop which will culminate in the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon. On tap Friday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course is the 1 1/8-mile $300,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. Friday’s card will include the G3 Pimlico Special and five other non-graded stakes races.
The final and thirteenth race of the day is the Old Hilltop Stakes where Bona Ventures' Stables Summer of Fun (4-1) will take on 10 other fillies in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Paco Lopez will be in the irons for trainer George Weaver. Graham Motion-trained Kitten's Point (5-2) looks to be Summer of Fun's main rival. She comes out of the G1 Ashland Stakes where she was trounced by 10 lengths by Emollient, who will run in the Black-Eyed Susan.
The 89th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features nine fillies trying to step up within the 3-year-old filly division, which saw Princess of Sylmar strike first blood in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago.
This year’s race will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (4 p.m.) in a one-hour telecast 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 – Makuna Honey (Terranova II, Prado, 10-1) – Borrego filly took six races to break her maiden, but has not missed the exacta in her last three races. She finished a well-beaten second in the G2 Fantasy to Rose to Gold at Oaklawn Park her last out. Not convinced she's fast enough for this field. [UPDATE: Per trainer John Terranova, she came out of her work flat on Monday and she will SCRATCH]
2 – Lady Banks (Lawrence II, Pimentel, 30-1) – The daughter of Successful Appeal has struggled since winning the 6-furlong Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct in January. Toss.
3 – Fiftyshadesofhay (Baffert, Rosario, 2-1) – Baffert puts the shades on her for the first time. She's flattered by Beholder's good performance in Kentucky Oaks (finished second). Baffert held her out of the Oaks when she didn't ship well. The Pulpit filly posted a nice work on May 10 at Churchill. Dangerous.
4 – Petit Trianon (Vazquez, Carrasco, 20-1) – Local talent has won three in a row. Receives six pound weight break from top horses, but this is an awfully big step up in class. Pass.
5 – Walkwithapurpose (Correas, Lezcano, 5-1) – SCRATCHED on Thursday afternoon when she took a bad step and bruised her foot making her unable to compete.
6 – Maracuya (Nicks, Velazquez, 8-1) - The unbeaten Big Brown filly is lightly raced and also takes a major step up in class. Has the pedigree to handle the 9-furlongs and should be pressing the leaders. Comes in off a long layoff and might need a race before improving. Exotics play underneath.
7 - Emollient (Mott, Smith, 9-5) – Morning line favorite rebounded from the Dreaming of Julia freak show at Gulfstream to win a Grade 1 on the polytrack at Keeneland. She also finished second to the Oaks third place finisher in the Grade 2 Demoisselle at the Big A. Could benefit from a hot pace up front as she likes to stalk and pounce. Keeps jockey Mike Smith aboard for the second straight race. Workout pattern for Bill Mott says she's sitting on a big one. On paper she's the one to beat.
8 – Toasting (Albertrani, Castellano, 20-1) – West Point Thoroughbreds filly that puts the shades on for the first time and has Castellano riding. Rosario jumps off to ride the Baffert horse. Surface change should help but not seeing it unless track comes up sloppy.
9 – Marathon Lady (Hobby, Albarado, 12-1) – Raced well on the polytrack at Turfway Park two back finishing second to Silsita, who finished last. She finished behind the rail horse in the Fantasy last out. Looks likes she would thrive at a mile and could be distance challenged at 9 furlongs.
Post Time Outlook – 1 –Fiftyshadesofhay; 2 –Emollient; 3 - Maracuya
Good luck and let’s cash some tickets.