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Aaron previews the 2023 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) from Pimlico, then gives his top picks & long shots. The undefeated Faiza brings her trainer Bob Baffert back to Pimlico in search of his record-tying 4th race title, but will the favorite falter like so many others before her? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Michael Lund Petersen’s undefeated Faiza will try to extend her perfect record and win her fifth graded stake in Friday’s $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 99th running of the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies highlights a spectacular 14-race program that includes six stakes, three graded, worth $1 million in purses and serves as an exciting prelude to Saturday’s 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
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Faiza and regular rider Flavien Prat will start from Post 9 in the field of 12.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert noted that this will be her first race outside of California, where his stable is based. Faiza could give Baffert a record-tying fourth victory in the Black-Eyed Susan. He has a 3-0-1 record from seven starters. His wins were with Hall of Famer Silverbulletday in 1999, Yearly Report (2004) and Fiftyshadesofhay (2013). The three trainers with four wins are all in the Hall of Fame, too: “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons, D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher.
“She’s very professional. She’s got a really good mind,” Baffert said. “Every time Prat rides he says there is so much more in the tank because she doesn’t win by a lot. I think it’s going to be a step up. She will be running against more horses, so you never know. But she’s doing really well.”
Faiza broke out of her win-by-a-little-bit mode in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) with a 6 ½-length score.
“She was really on when he asked her to go. I trained her a little bit stiffer for that one because I figured it was going to be a tougher race,” Baffert said. “She looks great. She’s healthy. She’s really in the zone right now. I think she would have been tough in the (Kentucky) Oaks, but we’ll find out in the Black-Eyed Susan.”
Faiza broke her maiden sprinting at Del Mar on Nov. 12 and promptly won the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos on Dec. 10 under Prat. This year, she has reeled off victories at Santa Anita in the Las Virgenes (G3), the Santa Ysabel (G3) and the Santa Anita Oaks.
Petersen’s Adare Manor finished second by 1¼ lengths as the 2-1 favorite in last year’s running of the Black-Eyed Susan. It continued a recent trend of favorites losing in the Black-Eyed Susan. It’s a remarkable statistic: Royal Delta in 2011 is the only favorite to win in the past 17 runnings of the race.
Gold Standard Racing Stable’s Hoosier Philly had a sensational 2-year-old season for trainer Tom Amoss, sweeping three races at Churchill Downs. The gray/roan daughter of leading sire Into Mischief out of the Tapit mare Tapella sold for $510,000 as a yearling. She broke her maiden on Sept. 22, won the Rags to Riches in the slop by 7 ½ lengths and took the Golden Rod (G2) by five lengths. This year, though, her fortunes changed at Fair Grounds. She was third, 8½ lengths behind the winner in the Rachel Alexandra (G2), and fourth, 15 ¼ lengths back in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2)
“She trained very well all along,” Amoss said. “Having said that, it’s a bit of a puzzle that we’ve been trying to correct to get her to run back to her 2-year-old races. It’s safe to say each time we’ve run her, I thought she would run her race. And we haven’t seen that to this point.
“Having said that, we like the way she’s doing and we’re looking forward to competing in what’s going to be a very tough race.”
Hoosier Philly and jockey Edgar Morales drew Post 3.
Cats Inthe Timber, trained by Brittany Russell, picked up her first stakes victory in the Weber City Miss on April 15 at Laurel. The Haymarket Farm homebred daughter of Honor Code has won three of six career starts and finished off the board just once.
“She’s done everything she’s need to do,” Russell said. “Obviously, we would be delighted if she can be competitive in there.”
Jevian Toledo, who ride in the Weber City, has the return call in the Black-Eyed Susan. He and Cats Inthe Timber drew Post 11.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, a four-time winner of the race, entered two fillies: Frosty O Toole and Miracle, who landed in adjoining stalls. Frosty O Toole and Joel Rosario drew Post 5, while Miracle and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will leave from Post 6.
Eclipse Thoroughbreds’ Frosty O Toole turned in back-to-back wins at Tampa Bay Downs in two-turn dirt races. She was moved to Pletcher’s barn and was well-beaten her first try in a graded stakes in the Gazelle (G3) on April 8 at Aqueduct.
In her last start, the New York-bred Miracle was the beaten favorite in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), her second start for Pletcher. She was bumped at the start and never was able to use her speed. Miracle, by Mendelssohn out of the Smart Strike mare Good Omen, spent last year with trainer Rodolphe Brisset in New York. Co-owners Siena Farm and WinStar Farm moved her to Pletcher’s barn this year and she opened competition for him by finishing second by three-quarters of a length in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 18 to Pretty Mischevious, who went on to win the Kentucky Oaks.
The Don Alberto Stables homebred filly Merlazza has had a strong start to her career with trainer Brad Cox. Wearing blinkers in her debut in Janaury at Fair grounds, she just missed, losing by a head. The blinkers have been off since and she has won three in a row, most recently the Valley of the Vapors at Oaklawn Park on April 22. Cox said that the Black-Eyed Susan looks to be a good fit for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro.
“She’s coming off a stakes win at Oaklawn,” Cox said. “She’s probably better suited for a mile and an eighth as opposed to a mile.”
Merlazza and Maryland-based jockey Feargal Lynch drew Post 4.
The Mike Maker-trained Pate was not a threat in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn on April 1, her first try beyond six furlongs. The Virginia-bred daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver is co-owned by Agave Racing Stable and Living the Dream Stables. Maker will also saddle Towhead, who finished second by a nose as a maiden in the Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 3. She was off the board in her two most recent starts, both Grade 3 races, the Honeybee and the Fantasy.
Jose Ortiz will ride Pate for the first time. They will start from Post 3. Towhead and Tyler Gaffalione landed on the outside in Post 12.
Jockey Manny Franco has been up for all three of Balpool’s victories in five career starts and will be her pilot in the Black-Eyed Susan. They drew Post 8. Balpool, trained by Rob Atras for Madaket Stable, has won her last two starts, both at Aqueduct, an optional claimer/allowance and the off-the-turf Memories of Silver on April 29.
Astras was puzzled when Balpool followed her maiden victory on Feb. 5 at Aqueduct with a clunker fourth at Laurel on March 10.
“We were kind of scratching our heads as to what kind of filly she was,” Atras said. “That allowance race came up so we figured we’d give her another shot in there and she really handled that field well that day. She really finished up good and kind of ran away from them. We got a little lucky with the stake (coming off the turf) but she still beat a couple decent fillies in there so, to me, it looks like she’s progressing and getting better with every start. We’re kind of excited about her and we’re hoping that if we do run that she’ll take another step forward.”
The Black-Eyed Susan will be Balpool’s first try at 1 1/8 miles. The Laurel race is her only one around two turns. Since that setback, she was has dominated in her two wins.
“I guess time will tell,” Atras said. “It’s a different ballgame going two turns but she’s a big filly. She’s got a nice big stride on her. I don’t see why she wouldn’t get the distance. Obviously, you don’t know sometimes until you run but she definitely looks like she’s got the tools to do it.”
Sacred Wish, co-owned by Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swinbank Stables, Steve Adkisson, Christopher Dunn and Anthony Spinazzola, started her career this year with Lynn Chleborad at Oaklawn Park. After she broke her maiden in her second start, the Not This Time filly was transferred to the care of George Weaver, who saddled her to a second-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez takes the mount on Sacred Wish. They will leave from Post 1.
Richard Bahde and trainer Randy Morse claimed Taxed, a daughter of Collected, for $50,000 in November and she has emerged as a stakes runner at Oaklawn Park with a pair of seconds behind Wet Paint, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She ended up two lengths behind Wet Paint at 27-1 in the Martha Washington and two races later was 2 ½ behind the star filly at 33-1. Rafael Bejarno retains the mount on Taxed, who drew Post 10.
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Other graded stakes on the Black-Eyed Susan program are the $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at Preakness distance of and the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs.
Rounding out the stakes action are the $100,000 Allaire du Pont Distaff and a pair of turf events, the $100,000 Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies at one mile, and $100,000 The Very One, a five-furlong dash for females 3 and older. First-race post time Friday is 11:30 a.m. Post time for the Black-Eyed Susan, which is carded as Race 13.
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