BALTIMORE, Md. – The News is ready to kickoff a great weekend at Old Hilltop which will culminate in the Preakness Stakes late tomorrow afternoon. On tap this afternoon at Pimlico Race Course is the 1 1/8-mile $500,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. Friday’s card will also includes three Grade 3 races, the Miss Preakness, the DuPont Distaff and the Pimlico Special, in addition to three other non-graded stakes races.
The 91st running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features nine fillies trying to step up within the 3-year-old filly division, which saw Lovely Maria stake her claim as the best filly in the land in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago.
This year’s race will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (3 p.m.) in a two-hour telecast as part of NBC’s weekend coverage of the Preakness Stakes. Post time for the Black-Eyed Susan is 4:50 p.m. ET.
Let’s take a look at the field for the Black-Eyed Susan (trainer, jockey, odds in parenthesis):
1 – Danessa Deluxe (Navarro, Velazquez, 9-2) – Finished third behind two horses in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, neither who fired two weeks ago in the Kentucky Oaks. Daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird shouldn’t have an issue with the distance and will be the second start under trainer Jorge Navarro who wins at a 36 percent clip in this position. She has Hall of Famer Johnny V in the irons, so there’s a lot to like.
2 – Pure (Cassidy, Espinoza, 10-1) – Finally broke her maiden in her seventh start for James Cassidy. Jockey Victor Espinoza will be looking for a Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness double with favorite American Pharoah on the back end. The Quality Road filly looks to be a bit overmatched here.
3 – Ahh Chocolate (Howard, Hernandez, 6-1) – This is a big step up for the daughter of Candy Ride in her third career start off an allowance win at Keeneland. Dam sire was a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, so the filly should be able to stay the distance. Is she too lightly raced? Could pick up the pieces if there’s an fast early pace scenario. Most likely I will be looking to use her underneath, as a late closer, in exotics betting.
4 – Gypsy Judy (Graham, Karamanos, 20-1) – Local filly shows some decent showings in the morning, but will need to step up her game against the incoming shippers. It’s tough to back the chestnut filly with her stretching out against much tougher competition.
5 – Include Betty (Proctor, Van Dyke, 5-1) – Proctor wheels her back after a disastrous trip in the Kentucky Oaks where she was blocked and steadied at the eighth-pole. The Fantasy winner at Oaklawn gets a jockey change to the talented Drayden Van Dyke for Governor Jones. Win threat.
6 – Sweetgrass (Wilkes, Leparoux, 12-1) – The Street Sense filly takes a step up in class after winning two straight. Stretches out in distance for Ian Wilkes and she should handle the distance, however, she will be up against foes with much better resumes.
7 – Devine Alda (Morales, Rios, 10-1) – Finished behind the rail horse in the GP Oaks by six lengths, after winning two straight non-graded stakes at Gulfstream and four straight overall. Working decently in the mornings, but appears to do her best running on the grass. Passing.
8 – Luminance (Baffert, Garcia, 9-5) – Short-priced favorite and daughter of Tale of the Cat ships in from the West Coast for Baffert, who will look to pull the BES-Preakness double. She finished five lengths behind the Kentucky Oaks favorite who faltered in Louisville, in her last outing in the Santa Anita Oaks. Seems to be a bit of a vulnerable favorite, but dangerous nonetheless.
9 – Keen Pauline (Romans, Castellano, 15-1) – The daughter of Pulpit comes in second off the layoff and gains hot jockey Javier Castellano in the irons. She’s another closer that will likely crash the trifecta or superfecta. She should improve returning to a route race.
Post Time Outlook – 1 –Include Betty 2 –Luminance; 3 – Danessa Deluxe; 4 – Keen Pauline
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.