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Preakness Stakes (G1) weekend officially kicks off this Friday with the running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2), which has drawn an evenly-matched field of nine 3-year-old fillies. Over the years, this card and this race have featured nice payouts and solid betting opportunities. This year’s 14-race card looks to be no different; the day has attracted full fields throughout. The Black-Eyed Susan is set for race 11 on Friday with a local post time of 4:48 PM ET.
Trainer Todd Pletcher holds a strong hand in this race, with the Gazelle Stakes (G2) winner Always Shopping and the third-place finisher Off Topic both entered. The Repole Stables-owned Always Shopping has won two straight, having broken her maiden in the $100,000 Busanda Stakes two starts back. She will be ridden by Manny Franco as she breaks from post 6. Off Topic has been consistent, hitting the board in five straight races, and John Velazquez will once again have the mount on her, breaking from post 2.
The main challenger to the Pletcher duo could be Brill, a $1 million yearling purchase who is still looking for the second win of her career. After breaking her maiden last year on debut at Del Mar, this filly hasn’t found the winner’s circle since, coming up short four straight times. However, she has been solid in two starts this year, including finishing a solid third last time out in the Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Florent Geroux will have the mount for the fourth straight time.
Point of Honor ships from Florida after finishing fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) last time out. After winning two straight in impressive fashion, she was sent off as the favorite in that race but lacked a serious run down the lane. The lightly-raced filly will look to bounce back here with jockey Javier Castellano aboard when they break from post 8.
The full field from the rail out for the Black-Eyed Susan: Sweet Diane, Off Topic, Ulele, Cookie Dough, Our Super Freak, Always Shopping, Brill, Point of Honor, and Las Setas.
#8 Point of Honor – This horse burst onto the scene with two straight impressive efforts, including a solid victory second out at Tampa Bay Downs in the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes. That race was strong enough to send her off as the favorite in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), but she didn’t run all that well, finishing fourth while lacking a late kick down the stretch. This filly is still developing, so she could be ready for an improved effort in this spot after that lackluster performance. The raw talent is there, so she should be considered extra-dangerous in this spot.
#7 Brill – She is still looking for the second win of her career, but don’t let that fool you. She has been solid in both of her starts this season, which came at Oaklawn Park. Her latest effort was a solid third in the Fantasy Stakes (G3), where she was only beaten by 1 1/2 lengths, and this will be her third race off of the layoff. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee could be ready for a big effort.
#4 Cookie Dough – The horse with the funny name has been fantastic in both of her races this season. She kicked off her season with a near-massive upset in the Davona Dale Stakes (G3), losing by a head to Jeltrin. In her next start, she backed that performance up with another solid effort, finishing a close third in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2). Nobody took her seriously to start the season; you have to now. This is a very logical spot for her.
#6 Always Shopping – We are taking a slight stand against her based on her speed figures. Yes, she has two straight victories coming into this one, including the Gazelle Stakes (G2), but she was not flashy either time, and both of those fields looked fairly weak. From a class standpoint, she is the best horse in the race, but at a short price, she is a play against for the top spot.
#2 Off Topic – This is not a flashy filly be any means; however, she has hit the board in five straight starts, and that is a good enough reason to play her in the underneath positions here. Plus, her connections are hard to ignore: Pletcher and Velazquez make a deadly team with a horse that has shown great consistency.
#3 Ulele – We know that this horse will play a part in the pace of the race. She likes to get to the lead, which was on full display last time out when she went wire to wire for a Keeneland allowance win. Trainer Brad Cox seems to have this horse on the right track, with her winning two of her last three. The presence of some other speed makes her questionable to win, but she could hit the board with a big effort.
#9 Las Setas – The local horse figures to play a major factor. She has won four straight, though none were as tough as what she will see here. The class test is her biggest question mark, but from a numbers standpoint, she fits in pretty well, which gives her a shot to make a big impact.
#5 Our Super Freak – This race is worth a shot for a filly who seems to be improving with each start. She narrowly missed last time out in the Weber City Miss Stakes, which Las Setas won. This will be a challenge from a class standpoint, which is her biggest question mark.
#1 Sweet Diane – It’s hard to throw anyone out in this race, but this horse has come up short when running against similar company. She was well-beaten in both the Fair Ground Oaks (G2) and the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes. Improvements will need to be made in order for her to have a chance to make an impact in this spot.
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