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BALTIMORE, MD – After a ground-saving trip throughout much of the race, Three Diamonds Farm’s Army Wife drew off in the stretch to prove much the best in Friday’s $250,000 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico.
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Army Wife broke from the rail under Joel Rosario as the 9/2 third choice in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies and held her inside position into the clubhouse turn while racing unhurried in mid-pack.
Lady Traveler struck the front end and posted opening fractions of :23.71, :46.71, and 1:10.92 as Adventuring and Beautiful Gift closely tracked her from the outside.
Midway down the backstretch, Rosario sent Army Wife through an opening inside of her rivals and placed her right behind Lady Traveler’s tail heading into the far turn, then tipped her out at the top of the stretch.
“It was a decision that I had to make because they were coming back a little bit in front of me and I had horse,” Rosario said after the race. “I decided I needed to go because I had some room to go and just let her run her race like she always does.”
Sweeping past Lady Traveler soon after straightening for home, Army Wife kicked free before crossing the wire 2 3/4 lengths clear to give trainer Mike Maker his first victory in the race. The final time for the fast 1 1/8-mile dirt route was 1:49.63.
“They looked like they had a good pace in the beginning,” Rosario said. “I thought I was going to be forwardly-placed, but the way they were moving, I was a little farther back.”
Though unable to reel in the runaway winner, Willful Woman rallied past Lady Traveler in the stretch to take second by 1 1/4 lengths over the pacesetter, who was 10 lengths clear of Forever Boss in fourth.
Miss Leslie, The Grass Is Blue, Beautiful Gift, Adventuring, Iced Latte, and Spritz completed the order of finish.
Beautiful Gift, the 2/1 favorite trained by the beleagured Bob Baffert, had undergone strict pre-race medication testing after stablemate Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance following his Kentucky Derby (G1) victory 2 weeks prior. Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, Baffert trainees entered in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1), are also part of the pre-race testing program as part of an agreement with the Maryland Jockey Club.
“Obviously, we are disappointed,” said Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes. “We thought she would run a little better than that. (Jockey John Velazquez) said that when he needed horse, he just didn’t have it. We’ll wrap things up and probably head back to California with her.”
Army Wife’s win was the third of her career and her first in a two-turn event to improve her overall record to 8-3-1-2 with $288,972 earned. The daughter of Declaration of War, purchased for $190,000 as a juvenile, finished third in last month’s 1 1/8-mile Gazelle Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct behind eventual Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up Search Results.
“The rail seemed like the spot to be today, and we finally got a good trip out of her,” Maker said. “I thought last time it was a last-minute decision (to run in the Gazelle). Not everything was ideal. She got in trouble, shuffled back, and she came on again, which I thought was very game. We opted not to enter her in the Oaks and point for this.”
Army Wife returned $11 to win, $5.80 to place, and $4 to show. Willful Woman brought back $12.60 to place and $7.80 to show. Lady Traveler paid $8.40 to show.
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