The crown jewel of Friday’s race day at Pimlico Race Course is the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. This Grade 2 race features some of the top fillies in the sport and is the main event on the day before the Preakness Stakes. Formerly known as the Pimlico Oaks from 1919-51, this is a 1 1/8 mile, or nine-furlong, race around the dirt track in Baltimore.
None of the nine fillies in the field ran in the Kentucky Oaks. In this preview, we’ll break down the morning line odds, the post positions, and the nine horses in an effort to make some money with Friday’s race, which has a post time of 4:48 p.m. ET.
|1||Sweet Diane||E. Kenneally||J. Ortiz||15/1|
|2||Off Topic||T. Pletcher||J. Velazquez||8/1|
|3||Ulele||B. Cox||J. Rosario||15/1|
|4||Cookie Dough||S. Gold||I. Ortiz Jr.||3/1|
|5||Our Super Freak||J. Ness||T. McCarthy||20/1|
|6||Always Shopping||T. Pletcher||M. Franco||4/1|
|7||Brill||J. Hollendorfer||F. Geroux||5/1|
|8||Point of Honor||G. Weaver||J. Castellano||5/2|
|9||Las Setas||K. Voss||J. Toledo||15/1|
This is the second leg of the Filly Triple Crown. The Kentucky Oaks and the Acorn Stakes are the other two. Davona Dale is the only filly to win all three. That happened in 1979. Davona Dale just might be the best filly ever with wins in the Mother Goose Stakes, Coaching Club American Oaks, Fantasy Stakes, and also the Bonnie Miss Stakes.
There are some very familiar names and some not-so-familiar names in this year’s race. Todd Pletcher has two fillies and Brad Cox has another. We don’t see guys like D Wayne Lukas, Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, either Servis, or Dale Romans. That shouldn’t matter because last year’s winning trainer was Kellyn Gorder and the winning jockey was Paco Lopez.
This should be a competitive and fun race. Hopefully the rain holds off on Friday. The chance of rain in Friday’s forecast could really change this handicap.
The starting point should always be the Todd Pletcher horses in this race. Pletcher has two, as second favorite Always Shopping will be ridden by Manuel Franco and Off Topic will be ridden by world-renowned rider John Velazquez. Pletcher is in search of his fifth Black-Eyed Susan Stakes win. His most recent was with Stopchargingmaria in 2014. Two of Pletcher’s four wins in this race have been with Velazquez. It is extremely interesting that Velazquez is in the irons for Off Topic and not Always Shopping. Those are the types of things you want to look for in these races.
Always Shopping won the Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct back on April 6 with the third-lowest odds in the six-horse race. Always Shopping simply outran Positive Spirit on the final stretch for the victory. Off Topic never really made a big push for Velazquez. It seemed like more of a casual run than a sprint.
Always Shopping comes from the Mike Repole Stable, which was the stable for Stopchargingmaria in 2014. That was with Javier Castellano instead of Franco. Again, something seems a little strange here in this race with regards to the Pletcher horses.
Off Topic has the bloodline (Street Sense), the jockey/trainer tandem (Velazquez/Pletcher), and also the stable, as WinStar Farm bred the horse. Off Topic hasn’t been able to win races, but has hit the board late. This may simply be a horse without enough giddy up to win. The Gazelle was a much bigger test than the allowance races and maidens and it wasn’t a very impressive showing.
Point of Honor will be a very popular bet on Friday with trainer George Weaver and jockey Javier Castellano, even as the favorite. Castellano won this race in 2014 with Pletcher’s Stopchargingmaria and in 2015 with Keen Pauline from trainer Dale Romans. The daughter of Curlin, Point of Honor was fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, which is probably why handicappers are down a little on her. She did win the shorter Suncoast Stakes and a maiden at Gulfstream in December, but was fourth in the six-horse GP Oaks to Champagne Anyone, Dunbar Road, and Cookie Dough.
Point of Honor had a bad start in that race and made up ground, but did so a bit too early, as Castellano started to challenge the leaders, but quickly gave up the pace to the hard chargers on the outside. Cookie Dough completely ran out of gas in that same race, so Irad Ortiz Jr. will have to pace the filly a little bit better this time around.
It was the same thing for Cookie Dough in the Davona Dale in early March. Jeltrin won at 50/1 by chasing down Cookie Dough over the final furlong. Cookie Dough has a great chance to hit the board and set the pace here, but winning is another story, as this horse just isn’t built for distance.
Let’s talk about Las Setas. The Katharine Voss filly is a Maryland regular at Laurel Park and local jockey Jevian Toledo will be the rider. Las Setas is perfect with wins in the Weber City Miss, Beyond the Wire, and Wide Country, all at Laurel Park. The longest of those races, however, was a 1 1/16 trip in the last race on April 20. An impressive set of results, but this is a big step up in class for the home team.
Brill is coming off of a decent trip at Oaklawn in the Fantasy Stakes with a third to Lady Apple and Motion Emotion. A third at Santa Anita in the Chandelier Grace 1 race and a fourth at the Del Mar Debutante have all given the horse a change of scenery. That can only help heading up to Pimlico. Brill went off as the second favorite and gave a good trip, but seemed a bit gassed for the final stretch after mostly matching Motion Emotion stride for stride for about six furlongs.
That’s the big problem with this race. We don’t have closers. We have pace setters, but we’re lacking closers.
Could Ulele be a closer? We don’t really know what we have in the Brad Cox filly because she hasn’t raced much. She was third back in February at Oaklawn to Motion Emotion, the favorite in the Fantasy Stakes, and Off Topic, one of the Pletcher fillies in this race. A win in the allowance race at Keeneland on 1 1/16 miles over High Regard was impressive. High Regard won its allowance on Kentucky Oaks day and had run in the Davona Dale, Golden Rod, and Rags to Riches Stakes, hitting the board in the latter two.
Ulele is an unknown, but jockey Joel Rosario is not. Rosario won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes in 2013 on all-time name team horse Fiftyshadesofhay. Interestingly, Rosario won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year with Jaywalk, but she ran 13th in the Kentucky Oaks with Javier Castellano in the irons. Rosario opted to ride with Baffert’s Flor de La Mar, but that horse finished 11th. It was a 20/1 shot, however, and Jaywalk was 8/1.
Something tells me that Rosario knows how to pick them. It was Florent Geroux’s ride at Keeneland in the allowance race on April 4. Geroux will be on Brill in this race.
All in all, this race looks pretty wide open. Always Shopping will likely close the favorite with wins on 1 1/8 mile races at Aqueduct. I can’t get on board Cookie Dough with the lack of finishing in the last two races and with this race being 1/8 mile longer than the Davona Dale and an extra 1/16 relative to the Gulfstream Oaks.
I’m going in on Ulele here. The Cox/Rosario tandem is a good one and he’s got a busy weekend with two horses in the Preakness and others on the undercard. My guess is that he feels like he has them well-trained for the shorter of the Triple Crown races.
Cookie Dough will likely hit the board late and is a definite consideration in tri and super wagering. The fact that Off Topic got Velazquez and Always Shopping got Franco is rather interesting. Always Shopping has those two wins on 1 1/8 mile trips with Franco, so I’m looking at an exacta box of Always Shopping and Ulele, with the hope that Ulele can find a way to win and bump the payout.
The bloodline for Brill with Medaglia d’Oro is a lot to overlook and two Grade 1 stakes races are more than we can say for most of the contenders. I’ll throw Brill in a box trifecta with Always Shopping and Ulele.
Exacta box 3/6
Trifecta box 3/6/7