Black-Eyed Susan day!

It feels like the Derby and the Oaks just happened; sure enough, that was only two weeks ago.  But, the Triple Crown season waits for no one.  It is now the second weekend of the Danonymous Racing ‘Cappers for Causes contest, and it’s time to delve into the four Friday races in the contest!

All four of these races are at Pimlico.  Pimlico is supposed to get a lot of rain in the time leading up to the races tomorrow, though it is supposed to let up by early afternoon.  It may be in time for the Preakness not to be extremely sloppy, but Black-Eyed Susan day will almost certainly be wet.  As such, the dirt races are handicapped for slop, and I looked at the turf race both for turf and for dirt, in case it’s washed out.

Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes (three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf, five furlongs on the main if it is washed off of the turf)

Unsurprisingly for a turf dash, there is a significant amount of early speed in this race.  Smash and Grab, Bold Thunder, This Ain’t No Bull, and Spring to the Sky all prefer being right on the early lead, and Wicked Tune and possibly Agonistic are likely to be just off it early.  The wild card pacewise is Ben’s Cat.  Ben’s Cat has done most of his recent races from a stalking place, but he’s just so versatile.  He has won from middle and closing places as well.  He has won both on the turf and on the dirt.  He is 4-3-0-1 lifetime on off dirt tracks, making him a good choice even if this is washed out.  His speeds are good for the field.  Ben’s Cat is going to be chalk, but there is everything to recommend him here as a top choice whether this race goes off on turf or is washed to the dirt.

If the race remains on the turf, Wicked Tune could be a threat.  He rises in class from an allowance race last out, where he was bumped repeatedly and still managed to win.  He has not been off the board this year, and is a five-furlong turf specialist.  He could give Ben’s Cat a run for his money if the race stays on the turf.  However, if the race is washed off, Wicked Tune is less likely to be as much of a threat; his breeding is not great for the slop, and he has not hit the board in two tries on off-dirt tracks.  However, Smash and Grab could very easily be the threat if the race is moved to the dirt.  His last time out wasn’t great, but he cuts back here from a mile all the way back to five furlongs.  He has fired his best speed figures on the dirt, and given his recent form patterns, he has a good chance of bouncing back from his subpar effort last out and firing a good race in this one.  If the race is washed off the turf, Smash and Grab should at least hit the board.

Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (GII, three-year-olds, fillies, 1 1/18 miles on the dirt)

This race has a lot of early pace in it, so I’m looking to someone to come off the pace in this one.  Among the horses who can come in from off the pace, Arethusa looks like the best option.  Not only is she coming in here second off a two-month lay, but she is dropping into here from three straight attempts in GI company.  This is a bit easier race than she has been facing, and the pace will likely set up well for her.  If a horse on or near the early pace survives to win, Sloane Square looks to be the best option.  The lightly raced filly moves up a bit in class here, but has been working well at Saratoga and Churchill Downs as of late.  Her breeding is nice for the slop, and her speed figures are trending up without huge jumps that suggest a bounce risk.

Stopchargingmaria, the morning line favourite, is a bit of a wild card here.  If she finds her two-year-old form, she should be able to succeed in this race.  However, her last two times out, one could have said the same thing; she finished off the board in both the Davona Dale and the Fantasy.  She does have the distinction of having won at 1 1/8 miles, and she also ran second in the GI Spinaway last year in the slop at Saratoga.  She has some very nice works at Saratoga, but still hasn’t proven she can run outside of New York — making this morning line favourite hard to take at a chalky price.

Ms. Preakness Stakes (three-year-olds, fillies, six furlongs on the dirt)

There is nary a closer in this field.  To a horse, everyone here likes to be on, or within a few lengths of, the early speed.  In this case, it seems wisest to look to a horse who has a proven ability to rate, so they still have a chance in case someone else breaks a little better and gets that early speed.  Our Lesmis is the top choice here.  She is a lightly raced filly in here on a class rise.  However, she is second off the winter lay, and coming in off some sharp works at Parx, including a bullet five furlongs in a minute flat back on May 4.  In her first race off the lay, she won an N1X allowance in the Parx dirt at this distance, in which she rated a couple lengths off and made her move through the far turn.  In that race, she won across a muddy track — suggesting she will succeed in what is likely to be a wet mess tomorrow.

Speaking of the slop, another horse with a good chance to run well given the surface is Tea Time.  She hasn’t raced on an off track yet, but her breeding suggests she should be able to handle it.  Her last time out was a flop over the Keeneland synthetic; the Beaumont (GII) was her first race off an almost six-month lay.  Here, she does several things that should all help her: she cuts back in distance, drops in class, and returns to dirt instead of synthetic.  She ran the best race of her career at this distance last year, and should like cutting back to shorter than the seven furlongs she tried last out.

Pimlico Special (GIII, three-year-olds and up, 1 3/16 miles on the dirt)

There is one horse in this field who loves being on the early speed, and that horse is Moreno.  He comes in here second off the winter lay, with speed figures in most of his recent races that stack up very favourably with this field.  He has run in the slop once, last year at Belmont; he broke his maiden that day.  The only real stylistic drawback to Moreno is that he has not proven any real ability to rate.  If someone decides to challenge him for the lead early and actually succeeds in getting it, Moreno may not be able to seize and hold that lead.  However, the odds are that he will get that early speed.

However, Moreno is likely to be really chalky.  If there were no good alternatives, then so be it; Moreno would not be a bad choice to win, and I would not leave Moreno off this race in a multi-race ticket.  However, there is one nice-priced horse in this field who looks to be in just the right place to give that speedball a run for his money.  This horse is Valid, 10-1 on the morning line.  Valid is in his second start off an almost three-month lay, and in his third start of his four-year-old year.  He tends to run well from inside posts, and absolutely destroyed an allowance optional claimer in the slop last November at Gulfstream.  He is working well at Calder and Monmouth, including a bullet three furlongs in 34.20 on May 12 over the New Jersey oval.  He has done so well in allowances his last couple times out that it seems a natural time to step up to stakes.  His connections should know — they are the same owner, trainer, and jockey who successfully transitioned another four-year-old, Lochte, from solid allowance horse to legitimate graded stakes competitor.

One final word on this race concerns Bourbon Courage. He should be near the middle to back of the pack early, and be trying to make up ground late.  However, this five-year-old has not won since 2012.  His speed is decent for the field, but not dazzling — something that can be said about many of his races over the last two years.  He has only finished outside the superfecta once in his career, so he is a great bet for lower rungs of exactas.  But, leave him off the top slot of your intra-race exotics, and off any multi-race wagers.  He isn’t cutting distance, firing mind-blowing workouts, or taking a class drop.  In short, nothing that would possibly cause him to win has changed.

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