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Pimlico Picks | Black-Eyed Susan Stakes 2024
Lemon Muffin (Carson Blevins/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Pimlico Picks | Black-Eyed Susan Stakes 2024

Aaron previews the 2024 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) from Pimlico, then gives his top win pick from Friday’s featured horse race.

Can Lemon Muffin give her Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his record 5th victory in the race? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments!

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The press release:

Grade 3 heroine Lemon Muffin will face four fellow stakes winners as well as Grade 2-placed California shipper Corposo in a highly competitive milestone edition of the $300,000 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Friday, May 17 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The 100th 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 a fitting prelude to Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Rounding out the stakes action are the listed $100,000 Allaire du Pont Distaff for fillies and mares 3 and up going 1 1/8 miles and a pair of scheduled 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. EST. Post time for the Black-Eyed Susan, carded as Race 13, is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. EST.

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Aaron Sones and Julie Gilbert’s Lemon Muffin can add her name to the list with a repeat of her performance in the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee (G3) Feb. 24 at Oaklawn Park, her maiden triumph after racing five times previously with four consecutive runner-up finishes. By multi-millionaire Collected, who won five graded-stakes including the 2017 Pacific Classic (G1), she graduated by 3 ½ lengths at odds of 28-1.

Following the Honeybee, Lemon Muffin ran seventh in the Fantasy (G2) at Oaklawn and, most recently, eighth in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 3, both times to Thorpedo Anna, the latter after breaking a step slow and racing near the back of a 14-horse field before improving her position late.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has had the most Black-Eyed Susan starters since 1976 with 18 and is tied with former protégé and fellow Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher for the most wins with four, the most recent coming with Serena’s Song in 1995.

“She has her days when she’s up and down and everything. On her best day, she’s a very, very nice filly,” Lukas said of Lemon Muffin. “But she doesn’t always show up every time, so we’re hoping that we get one of those days when she does.”

Flavien Prat is named to ride from Post 3 in a field of eight at topweight of 124 pounds, yielding from two to six pounds to her rivals.

R. Larry Johnson’s Maryland homebred Call Another Play earned an automatic bid to the Black-Eyed Susan thanks to a 3 ½-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss April 20 at Laurel Park, her third consecutive win.

“It was good. I was very happy with her,” trainer Mike Trombetta said of her stakes debut. “She had a real good chance in there if she ran her race, and she probably did a little better than we expected.”

Maryland’s leading rider in 2023, Jaime Rodriguez, has been aboard for the entirety of her win streak and returns from Post 4 on Call Another Play, who ran twice for a $40,000 tag before her breakthrough victory.

“She just finally caught some continuity and she’s figuring things out in these two-turn races. She’s been able to handle it,” Trombetta said. “She’s going to have to step up her game, it’s just a matter of how much.”

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Jeanne Marie ran second in the Weber City Miss, her second straight race around two turns following a front-running triumph in the one mile, 70-yard Main Line March 5 over her home track of Parx. Her trainer, Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr., ran sixth with Morning Matcha in the 2022 Black-Eyed Susan.

“She’s a tough little filly,” Reid said. “She’s not very big, about 900 pounds I think she weighed last time. She kind of had to check back a little bit on the turn and then came on again and was finishing well at the end. That was her second time around two turns, so we expect her to even improve off that one.”

Mychel Sanchez has the call from Post 1.

Peter Callahan and James Reiley McDonald’s Ringy Dingy is entered to make her season debut in the Black-Eyed Susan for trainer Danny Gargan. The Dialed In filly raced four times at 2, breaking her maiden second time out and pulling away to a 6 ¼-length score in the one-mile White Clay Creek last fall at Delaware Park. She has not raced since running seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle (G2) over a muddy Aqueduct surface Dec. 2.

Regular rider Katie Davis, formerly based in Maryland, has the assignment from Post 2.

Recharge, bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, will be looking to give Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen a first Black-Eyed Susan victory in his fifth try. The daughter of Gun Runner reeled off three consecutive wins to open her career capped by the one-mile Sunland Park Oaks Feb. 18, before having her streak snapped when fifth in the Fantasy.

“She’s the Sunland Park Oaks winner; it’s a good spot,” Asmussen said.

Joel Rosario, who, like Gun Runner, will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame this summer, rides from outermost Post 8.

Madaket Stables and Slam Dunk Racing’s Corposo will be making her second straight graded-stakes start around two turns in the Black-Eyed Susan, after running third in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks (G2) April 6.

It will be another progression in distance for the daughter of 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner and champion older male Vino Rosso, having raced at 6 ½ furlongs and one mile in her first two starts.

“I don’t think she’s going to cry about the distance too much, at least that’s what her jocks are always telling me,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “From the time I’ve had with her, everything’s been pretty straightforward with her. She’s got a great mind. She’s a solid filly, a good 1,100 pounds or better. Nothing seems to bother her at all. I’ve never really seen her sweat too much, either. It’s good.”

Tyler Gaffalione has the call from Post 7 for Eurton, who ran seventh with She’s a Warrior in the 2016 Black-Eyed Susan.

“I think you have to have the right mindset to travel for one, and to go into Pimlico, too,” he said. “The last time I was there, the weather was very humid. I think my filly just kind of melted.”

R. Lee Lewis’ Gun Song, also by Gun Runner, will get the chance to rebound in the Black-Eyed Susan after encountering some early trouble and finishing fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 30. The top two finishers, Power Squeeze and Ways and Means, came back to run sixth and fourth, respectively, in the Kentucky Oaks.

“It was kind of a weirdly run race in general,” trainer Mark Hennig said of the Gulfstream Park Oaks. “Down the backside Ways and Means kind of made that move in the middle of the race that kind of changed the complexion of the race, I would say, to a certain extent. I think [Gun Song] got a little tired and it didn’t unfold the way we hoped. She was always in between horses. She just had somewhat of a funky trip.”

Gun Song will break from Post 5 with John Velazquez up. Velazquez is tied with fellow Hall of Famer Chris McCarron for the most Black-Eyed Susan wins since 1976 with four, the most recent on In Lingerie in 2012.

“She’s had some nice breezes since her last race and we happened to give her more time just because of the spacing, but she’s doing super,” Hennig said. “We’re going to give her a shot.”

Completing the field is Courtlandt Farm’s Whocouldaskformo, a $450,000 daughter of champion Uncle Mo trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, whose lone Black-Eyed Susan victory came with Mesabi Maiden in 1996.

Whocouldaskformo broke her maiden in her juvenile finale at Aqueduct and is 0-for-3 this year, running second in the one mile, 40-yard Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs, fifth in the one-mile Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream and fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle (G3) April 6 at Aqueduct in her most recent start.

Luis Saez will ride from Post 6.

Other graded stakes on the Black-Eyed Susan program are the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles and $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs.

Making its debut in 1919 as the Pimlico Oaks, the Black-Eyed Susan was not run from 1932-36 and again in 1950, and was renamed upon its 1951 return to honor the Preakness and Maryland’s state flower. Nine of its winners have gone on to be named champion 3-year-old filly including Hall of Famers Davona Dale, Real Delight, Royal Delta, Serena’s Song, Silverbulletday and Twilight Tear.

Among other prominent Black-Eyed Susan winners are Hall of Famer Gallorette; Nellie Morse, the only filly to also win the Preakness, in 1924; But Why Not, Caesar’s Wish, High Voltage, Vagrancy, Wide Country and Wistful.