BALTIMORE, MD – Actress put on a show in Friday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, holding off Lights of Medina by a head at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies.
The 93rd running of the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies served as a fitting prelude to Saturday’s 142nd Preakness Stakes.
Off at almost 13-1 odds, Actress was like the understudy who got her shot at the big-time sooner than expected. Trained by Jason Servis for owners-breeders Gary and Mary West, Actress had raced only twice before, finishing second in both, including a small restricted stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Under regular rider Nik Juarez, she powered from near the rear of an 11-horse field to thread her way through horses on the far turn before easing to the outside and taking the lead in the final 1/8 of a mile. She dug in determinedly to keep the fast-flying Lights of Medina at bay while covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.87. She picked up $150,000 to balloon her earnings to $172,150.
Servis said “It didn’t make any difference” that Actress came into the Black-Eyed Susan as a maiden.
“I always liked this filly,” he said. “I told them she’s a good filly from Day 1. I’ve got to hand it to the Wests. They were on board the whole time, and a lot of owners wouldn’t be, but they’ve been great. They’re good for the business. They deserve it. They love the game. It’s not just the money; they’ve got a passion for it. It’s all good stuff.”
A rain shower passed over the track and lasted until the start of the Black-Eyed Susan, leaving the main track sloppy and sealed, but Servis wasn’t concerned about a wet track, saying, “With her pedigree, she should run on anything.”
Juarez said that he knew from the first time Actress ran, coming at 6 furlongs out of the chute, that “She was a runner.” He found out something else.
“I found she really liked being behind the dirt,” he explained. “I said, ‘Let’s send her around two turns,’ and Jason said the same thing. We knew she would get a distance. They were running fast up front, and I was sitting behind. She ate the dirt up. When she made her move, she really started running, and carried it on.”
Lights of Medina, ridden by Feargal Lynch, gobbled up ground through the stretch while rallying outside the winner. The filly earned an automatic bid to the Black-Eyed Susan for her victory in the ‘Win and You’re In’ Weber City Miss on April 22 at Laurel Park.
“I thought Lights of Medina ran great,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who also had fifth-place Moana in the race. “It was a tough beat. She just missed a head bob. It was a great effort by her. I thought she perhaps was going to nail her, but she didn’t.”
Lynch said he thought Lights of Medina would be much closer to the early pace, which Tapa Tapa Tapa established through fractions of :23.12, :46.38, and 1:11.56 before giving way to sixth.
“She got outrun early, so I left her alone,” Lynch said. “I got her in the clear and gave her a nice wide trip and a fair shot at it. She’s a grinder. I used up so much to get her there. She gave everything she had.”
It was two lengths back to third-place Corporate Queen, who was last most of the way before being forced five-wide to make a late assault. Trainer Mark Casse had trouble picking up Corporate Queen while watching the race, and not just because of the slop that enveloped the horses.
“I forgot we weren’t wearing Gary Barber’s silks,” he said. “So I’m looking for the other pink, because she wore Bobby Flay’s (orange and yellow) silks. I thought it was great. I’ll have to watch the replay, since I missed her through the race. But the finish was a nice surprise.”
Completing the order of finish were Torrent, Moana, Tapa Tapa Tapa, Shimmering Aspen, Summer Luck, Dancing Rags, Yorkiepoo Princess, and Full House.
Friday’s attendance was a record 50,339, topping the previous mark of 47,956 set last year. Total handle on the 14-race program was a record $19.895 million, a 6% increase over last year’s previous record total handle of $18.661 million. With nearly another $750,000 bet on the Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness daily double, total handle was more than $20 million.
Actress returned $27.60, $10.60, and $7.80. Lights of Medina brought back $5.80 and $4.60, while Corporate Queen paid $10.20 to show.
Additional Race Quotes
Trainer Todd Pletcher, Lights of Medina & Moana: “Moana seemed a little bit geared up early on. She was probably a little closer to the pace than we envisioned her to be early on. I think she struggled with the racetrack. She had no traffic issues.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, Corporate Queen: “She broke OK. They were rolling. They were coming and coming. She took her time to get into the race, and then she makes a nice run. The track surface didn’t bother her at all.”
Trainer Ron Moquett, Torrent: “I was pleased with the effort of the horse and the rider. I didn’t know how she would take to the slop. It took her a little bit to figure it out. We didn’t even know if she was going to try, and then she did. She made an account of herself. We’ll get them next time.”
Pimlico Race Course