Two weeks removed from everyone clamoring for parkas and ponchos in Kentucky, racing fans and horsemen will need of sunscreen and seersucker as the biggest weekend on the Maryland circuit gets started with a stacked Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Day card at Pimlico Race Course.
Friday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s with plenty of sunshine, a stark contrast for the weather that greeted everyone in Louisville for the Kentucky Oaks. Like the Oaks Day card the Black-Eyed Susan and Pimlico Special program features plenty of quality stakes. Seven stakes are on the 14-race card that gets underway at 11:30 a.m., so get to the track early or start working now on that excuse to cut out of work at lunchtime.
The rain and mud at Churchill Downs didn’t treat our handicappers well during Kentucky Oaks-Kentucky Derby weekend as they only managed a few winners.
Tom and Sean head into Baltimore with a pair of winners apiece; Tom picked Green Mask in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint on Oaks Day and Limousine Liberal for a $28.40 mutuel in the Churchill Downs on the Derby undercard, while Sean tabbed Paulassilverlining in the Humana Distaff and Roca Rojo in the Distaff Turf Mile. Joe is riding the duck into his home ground, but he is racking up more writing awards than college kids knock back mugs of fizzy yellow beer in the infield.
Here are our team’s selections for the seven stakes that highlight Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan card. Good luck.
Allaire du Pont Distaff (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/8 miles. 1:34 p.m. EDT.
Terra Promessa is heavy favorite off strong second to Stellar Wind in Grade 1 Apple Blossom last time out. A repeat of that effort should be good enough in this spot. The biggest threats come from Carrumba, a graded stakes winner going two turns who stretches back out after two so-so efforts sprinting, and Top Flight winner Mo’ Green for Mid-Atlantic connections.
Sean: Carrumba, Terra Promessa, Mo' Green.
Tom: Terra Promessa, Carrumba, Winter.
Joe: Mo' Green, Terra Promessa, Carrumba.
Pimlico Special (G3). $300,000, 3-year-olds and up, 1 3/16 miles. 2:39 p.m.
Shaman Ghost probably earned a trip to Dubai after strong second to Arrogate in $12 million Pegasus World Cup but connections bypassed in favor of races like the Santa Anita Handicap, which he won, and the Pimlico Special. One of the best older horses in training on the East Coast, if not the best, he’s a standout despite the presence of defending champ Noble Bird, Eagle, Watershed and Dolphus.
Sean: Shaman Ghost, Dolphus, Watershed.
Tom: Shaman Ghost, Eagle, Bodhisattva.
Joe: Shaman Ghost, Eagle, Watershed.
Hilltop. $100,000, 3-year-olds, fillies, 1 miles, turf. 3:13 p.m.
Grade 1 winner Victory To Victory looked very sharp in return at Keeneland last time for Mark Casse, running in an allowance there instead of a stakes on the grass during Derby weekend. Daughter of Exchange Rate could be part of a big couple days for her barn, who send out Classic Empire in Saturday’s Preakness. Strong field also includes the 2-for-2 Dance Queen, multiple Grade 3-placed Compelled and Edgewood third-place finisher Sweeping Paddy.
Sean: Victory To Victory, Compelled, Corporate Queen.
Tom: Victory To Victory, Happy Mesa, Compelled.
Joe: Compelled, Victory To Victory, Chubby Star.
Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3), $150,000, 3-year-olds, fillies, 6 furlongs. 3:44 p.m.
Full field of 14 without a clear standout. Our Majesty finished first in each of her three starts for Ron Moquett, but was disqualified from small stakes at Oaklawn Park two back. She comes out of good effort last time at the distance at Keeneland. Plenty of value to be found on the board, with unbeaten Florida shipper Who’s The Lady at 15-1, Grade 1 winner Pretty City Dancer at 6-1, Astrollinthepark at 8-1 and Prairie Meadows stakes winner Vertical Oak. And don’t forget Crabcakes, first or second in all five of her starts but most likely to be bet down from 12-1.
Sean: Astrollinthepark, Our Majesty, Too Much Tip.
Tom: Crabcakes, Nonna Bella, R Angel Katelyn.
Joe: Astrollinthepark, Our Majesty, Pretty City Dancer.
Jim McKay Turf Sprint. $100,000, 3-year-olds and up, 5 furlongs, turf. 4:16 p.m.
Ben’s Cat will clearly be the favorite story; he’s won this race the last four years and five times overall. The old veteran is showing signs of slowing down, with a string of six defeats going back to last year’s victory. Don’t count the 11-year-old out though, not yet. Difficult betting race with Amelia’s Wild Ride coming off long layoff, 3-1 morning-line favorite Pay Any Price shipping in from Florida and Richard’s Boy returning from trip to Dubai and a good fifth in Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. And if you don’t like any of those, you’re in luck because there are 10 others in the body of the race and two more on the also-eligible list.
Sean: Take Cover, Richard’s Boy, Made Bail.
Tom: Richard’s Boy, Grand Candy, Amelia’s Wild Ride.
Joe: Ben's Cat, Made Bail, Richard's Boy. Because ya gotta believe.
Black-Eyed Susan (G2). $250,000, 3-year-olds, fillies, 1 1/8 miles. 4:50 p.m.
The day’s co-main event attracts good group of 11 that includes Grade 1 winner Dancing Rags. Winner of the Darley Alcibiades last fall at Keeneland, Dancing Rags looks to improve off dull sixth in Grade 3 Beaumont sprinting last time. She’s the graded stakes winner in the field, but Tapa Tapa Tapa, Lights Of Medina and Yorkiepoo Princess are all stakes winners this year.
Sean: Lights Of Medina, Full House, Shimmering Aspen.
Tom: Dancing Rags, Yorkiepoo Princess, Lights Of Medina.
Joe: Shimmering Aspen, Full House, Moana.
Skipat. $100,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 6 furlongs. 5:54 p.m.
Stick around for the last of seven stakes, which comes after an allowance race that follows the Black-Eyed Susan. Clipthecouponannie ripped through state-bred competition in her first three starts then topped open company in an allowance before a good third in the Grade 3 Distaff in early April at Aqueduct. She draws outside for Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. Disco Chick won this race last year and is always capable, while Summer Reading, Chanteline, Absatootly and Pleasant Tales ship in with a chance.
Sean: Clipthecouponannie, Chanteline, Absatootly.
Tom: Clipthecouponannie, Disco Chick, Pleasant Tales.
Joe: Summer Reading, Clipthecouponannie, Disco Chick.