Over at Picks and Ponderings, both Paul Mazur and I shared our selections for the stakes races on the Black-Eyed Susan day card. He wrote full analysis of the Black-Eyed Susan (GII), and then we have a grid with our top three selections and our longshot for each of the seven stakes. Since picks alone are a bit less useful than having the analysis behind those selections, I provide the thoughts behind each of my selections here.
All races discussed here will take place Friday, May 15 at Pimlico Race Course.
Race 5: Hilltop Stakes, three-year-old fillies, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Miss Temple City (10), Lady Zuzu (4), Kawfee Fa Marfa (6)
Longshot: C’Est Moi (5)
Could Ayaady (1) win this? Sure. She has done little wrong in her two career starts, and trainer Chad Brown has some sharp turfers. However, without a ton of early pace for her to run into late, taking a short price on Ayaady seems less than exciting. Instead, look outside to Miss Temple City. She ran second behind Lady Eli first off the lay. She should be able to stay near enough the pace, and already has a win at the distance. Lady Zuzu is one of two runners (the other being All in Fun) who could be near the lead early. Lady Zuzu has shown a bit better turf form, and should appreciate the class drop here. Kawfee Fa Marfa ran third from a bit off the pace despite crawling fractions last out. Though this race should not have a ton of pace, it should not be quite so slow. If she comes in a bit sharper third off the lay, she should rally to at least hit the board. With the scratch of Intrepid Alex (9), C’Est Moi moves into the longshot slot. She steps into stakes company for the first time, and cuts back from going 1 3/16 miles last out. Two back she showed speed perfectly in range with this crowd going the same distance as the Hilltop, and finished just a neck back of the likely favourite Ayaady there.
Race 8: Miss Preakness Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Streamsong (8), Irish Jasper (9), Spark (10)
Longshot: Super Saks (4)
One of two things will happen in this race. Either Super Saks will get to wing it on the front end, or an epic pace collapse will happen. The latter seems far more likely, making the pace set up very nicely for the only two true off-pace types in the field: Streamsong and Irish Jasper. Irish Jasper is a little more proven against tougher company, but Streamsong has put up figures on dirt that are perfectly competitive. She will be a far longer price; take the overlay. On multi-race bets, going two deep with this pair makes sense. Spark won her last on the lead, but broke her maiden from a few lengths off the early going. The rider switch to Javier Castellano is a plus point, as is trainer Jimmy Jerkens’s 28% record in graded stakes (with a healthy +$2.20 ROI). The long shot considers the opposite possibility — that Super Saks, putting the blinkers back on, wings it without anyone able to catch her. Her only good races to date have been at this six-furlong distance, and blinkers back on means catch her if you can. If the rest of the speed decides to play chicken, or the chalky likes of Enchanting Lady or Miss Ella can’t quite stay with her early, she could lead this bunch on a wild goose chase at a very long price.
Race 9: Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes, three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf
Selections: Ben’s Cat (3), Grateful Nation (1), Amelia’s Wild Ride (9)
Longshot: Golden Emperor (4)
I really tried to find a way to beat Ben’s Cat here. Despite the fact that he will be a short, underlaid price…I couldn’t do it. With a mob of early speed in this race, Ben’s Cat should be perfectly suited to sit just off of it and roll past all of them late. He failed as the favourite behind Bold Thunder last out, but Bold Thunder is not going to get the easy frontrunning trip that he had in that previous race. If anyone has a shot to upend Ben’s Cat, it is probably Grateful Nation. Third in the allowance last out behind Bold Thunder and Ben’s Cat, Grateful Nation is a midpack to closing type who also stands to be rolling late, though his ability to step up against this class of company remains a question. Amelia’s Wild Ride has been in good form lately, and has shown enough versatility to win from either right on the pace or just off it. If he can stay out of the front-end brouhaha and dig back to his Gulfstream form from the winter, he has a shot. Golden Emperor has been a new horse since switching to turf sprints, and is undefeated in three turf dash attempts. His speed figures have been a bit slow for this group, but that could be a question of them just being what he needed to beat the weaker company he had faced. If he drifts up to the 15/1 range, his current streaking form would make it worth betting that he will run the race of his life here.
Race 10: Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one eighth miles on the dirt
Selections: Lunar Surge (1), Stopchargingmaria (2), Blue Violet (3)
Longshot: Brenda’s Way (6)
There looks to be some pace here, with Brenda’s Way certain to send and Yahilwa, Before You Know It, and possibly even Stopchargingmaria likely to provide some pressure. Rail-drawn Lunar Surge should be coming on late, and her current form is sharp enough to make her a tough contender here. She has never missed the board at nine furlongs, and gets rider Jose Ortiz back in the irons. Ortiz rode her three starts back, winning a stakes at Laurel at this distance. Stopchargingmaria stretches back out to her best distance after a surprisingly good second-place finish in the seven-furlong Madison last out. She also has a win over the track, having taken the Black-Eyed Susan last year. The biggest drawback is the pace, since it could get somewhat hot up there. Still, if her big effort last out was a question of her improving at four as opposed to something she may regress from? She could be tough from start to finish. Blue Violet is a versatile sort, able to run a solid race from the front, just off the pace, or as far back as midpack. Expect her to sit a little back here. She should be able to handle Pimlico; though she was off the board in her only start over the track, she crossed the wire first but was disqualified. She ended up a bit short last out in the Doubledogdare, but should be fitter second off the lay. Among the longer shots, Brenda’s Way holds the most appeal. Her sharp early pace could be enough to clear early, and if the rest of the field lets her wing it for enough of the mile and an eighth, this horse for the Pimlico course could just keep running.
Race 11: Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (GII), three-year-old fillies, one and one eighth miles on the dirt
Selections: Luminance (8), Danessa Deluxe (1), Devine Aida (7)
Longshot: Gypsy Judy (4)
There is not a lot of pace in this race. Luminance could be fast enough to take the lead outright; if she does not, she should be able to stalk fairly close to the pace. She stands to improve third off the lay, and trainer Bob Baffert’s 30% rate with shippers suggests he means business. Luminance will be chalk, but with the speed advantage and the pace setup, it’s her race to lose. Rail-drawn Danessa Deluxe could pull the upset if she can sit close enough to the pace. She ran a strong third behind Birdatthewire in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in her three-year-old debut, and an improvement from that makes her a strong contender here. This daughter of Summer Bird could take to the nine-furlong distance, but the only worry is whether she will have enough pace in front of her to get all the way there. She should hit the board, regardless. Devine Aida finished fourth in that Gulfstream Oaks last out, and should be able to run near the pace. She will neede to improve to take this race, but the works suggest she should be coming in sharp. Gypsy Judy faces the toughest field of her career by far, but her ability to set the fractions or stalk just off them should suit this race. If she can run back to her big win in the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel two starts back, she could contend. The mile and an eighth is a question since she has never gone past a flat mile, but the sharp local rider and the strong work pattern make her worth a swing at a price.
Race 12: Skipat Stakes, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Lady Sabelia (5), She’s Ordained (3), Aix En Provence (1)
Longshot: Who’s In Town (7)
Lady Sabelia comes in here off an ambitious last asking: seven furlongs in Grade I company. She went way too fast on the front end, and did not have enough late. Here she takes a huge class drop and dials back to six panels, over a track where she has won before. She probably will not set the early pace here, but has shown tactical speed in the past and should be sharp enough to stalk and pounce. It probably will be She’s Ordained who sets the early fractions. Though she has finished no better than second in four starts at Pimlico, her 29-10-8-4 record at six furlongs suggests consistency, and her speeds are strong for the field. She should be fit second off the lay, and can win on a contested pace. The third slot was a tight choice between Frivolity and Aix En Provence; with the scratch of Frivolity, Aix En Provence it is. She should be fast enough to contend, and has a strong career line over the six-furlong distance. Aix En Provence may be hoping for She’s Ordained to be pressed a bit more, but she has a win over the Pimlico course and gets a rider change to the more experienced Jose Ortiz. Who’s In Town has hit the board in five of six at this distance, has strong versatility of pace, and can run a good race anywhere from the front end to midpack. She comes in off a six-month lay, but trainer Michael Matz has a solid 16% record with runners off those long lays. She has fired off the lay before, so she may well do so again.
Race 14: Pimlico Special Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds and up, one and three sixteenths miles on the dirt
Selections: Commissioner (10), Cat Burglar (9), Top Billing (8)
Longshot: Page McKenney (5)
This race originally drew a field of ten, though the connections of Albano and Tapiture have announced that they will scratch. The scratch of Albano can only help Commissioner, leaving him as lone speed in a race whose distance suits his abilities well. Cat Burglar comes in second off, and should be stalking in striking range of Commissioner. He ran a creditable third in the Pimlico Special last year, showing he can get the distance, and should both have first run at Commissioner and enough gas left late to put forth a good effort. The only horse in the field as well bred as Commissioner for this distance is Top Billing, but Top Billing is a dead closer. He has shown the ability to fire into slower paces, but the pace makes him a bit more attractive as an undersides horse than on top. I would still cover him in multis, since he does seem to be rounding into form and could be good enough. Still, the 8/1 morning line is a pipe dream, and the scratch of Albano hurts him as much as it helps the Commish. It does not get more honest than Page McKenney, who has hit the board in his last fourteen starts. He tried graded company for the first time last out, finishing a late-running third in the Charles Town Classic (GII). He has shown the ability to stalk close enough to keep Commissioner in his sights, and has a win over the Pimlico course already. He has won at nine furlongs already. Though the stretch out to nine and a half plus the class of the company make him a question, the consistency and the fact that he will be one of the longer shots on the board make him worth using, at least in intra-race exotics.