BLACK-EYED SUSAN STAKES (G2) RACE PREVIEW

Distaffers take the spotlight at Pimlico on Friday, when the unbeaten and very exciting Faiza has her first start outside California in the feature G2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. The G3 Miss Preakness sets up as a speed duel between classy fillies Key Of Life and Maple Leaf Mel, while the boys get a chance in the G3 Pimlico Special, in which G1 winner Rattle N Roll bids to maintain his steady climb back up the ladder.

Preakness Stakes Odds

Black-Eyed Susan Stakes

G2, $300,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo fillies, 5.44pm ET

In mid-May the Kentucky Oaks winner would normally be the pro tem leader of the division, but there’s a doubt about that status this year as a potential top-notcher comes out of the west to throw down the gauntlet in the Black-Eyed Susan, the marquee event at Pimlico on Friday.

She was barred from the Oaks owing to trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs, but Faiza (7-5) would probably have been favourite for that race with her flawless record in California, five-for-five including last year’s G1 Starlet at Los Alamitos. She has carried all before her in 2023, taking the G3 Las Virgenes and G3 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita before posting a career-best in the mile-sixteenth G2 Santa Anita Oaks on her most recent start.

Faiza ran them out of town that day, drawing off to score by six and a half lengths, and she could still be some way from her ceiling. The extra yardage won’t be an issue and her stalking tactics look ideal for today’s race set-up.

Her paper dominance is illustrated by the fact that main market rival Merlazza (6-1) is making her Graded-stakes debut, although it’s a logical step after her comfortable success in a mile stakes at Oaklawn Park, when she rallied nicely off a Sunday-stroll pace. She could find more with decent fractions to run at and is at least two steps ahead of her barnmate Comparative (12-1), who makes her stakes debut following an allowance score over a mile-sixteenth at Keeneland.

The wildcard here is Hoosier Philly (10-1), of whom big things were expected after a three-for-three juvenile campaign. However, she has shown nothing in two starts in 2023, although her fourth-place in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks over a mile-sixteenth looked a lot better after the runner-up Pretty Mischievous won the G1 Kentucky Oaks. She represents a major leap of faith for bettors.

Sacred Wish (10-1) ran a big race on her stakes debut in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks over a mile-sixteenth, rallying in eyecatching style to take the ‘place’ slot, with no-show favourite Miracle (10-1) four and a half lengths back in fifth.

There’s scope for further improvement and Sacred Wish could be an overlay today, while Miracle – zero-for-five in stakes since her debut win – is nevertheless preferred to barnmate Frosty O’Toole (15-1), last of six in the G3 Gazelle at Aqueduct on her stakes debut.

The progressive Balpool (8-1) is three-for-four this year but her stakes breakthrough at Aqueduct over a mile came against just three rivals, and she’ll need another big move forward to figure.

The 33-1 longshot Taxed (15-1) far outran her odds when runner-up to Kentucky Oaks fourth Wet Paint in the G3 Fantasy at Oaklawn over a mile-sixteenth – barnmates Pate (20-1) and Towhead (20-1) well adrift in sixth and seventh – and would be in the mix if reproducing that, although three previous defeats at stakes level invite caution.

Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Sacred WishJohn R. Velazquez+1000
PateJeiron Barbosa+2000
Hoosier PhillyEdgar Morales+1000
MerlazzaFlorent Geroux+600
Frosty O TooleJoel Rosario+1500
MiracleIrad Ortiz, Jr.+1000
ComparativeLuis Saez+1200
BalpoolManuel Franco+800
FaizaFlavien Prat+140
TaxedRafael Bejarano+1500
Cats Inthe TimberJevian Toledo+3000
TowheadTyler Gaffalione+2000

This could be easy pickings for California superstar FAIZA, who is unbeaten in five and coming off a career-best at G2 level with the potential for further improvement.

Pimlico Special

G3, $250,000, 1m 3/16 dirt, 3yo+, 5.10pm ET

The second running of the Pimlico Special was the celebrated 1938 match between Seabiscuit and War Admiral; none of today’s contenders are in the same league as those all-time greats, but in an echo of that historic contest there are two horses who stand out from the crowd.

Kenny McPeek has done a fine job to get former Kentucky Derby hope Rattle N Roll (9-5) back into shape, and he did win three other Derbys in 2022 – the G3 Oklahoma Derby and the stakes American Derby and St Louis Derby. He has carried his revival into this campaign, and finished off his race willingly when taking down the G3 Ben Ali at Keeneland over today’s distance, driving home to win by a length and a quarter.

He won a G1 as a juvenile but this is his level now, and his only serious rival as far as the market is concerned is Law Professor (5-2), who has thrived since moving barns to Rob Atras, only off the board once in six starts and that ‘misfire’ when fifth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Last time out he was a 1-2 shot for a mile-eighth stakes at Aqueduct and won like it when putting four lengths between himself and old-timer Keystone Field (10-1), who led but had no answer when Law Professor surged past and is a rung or two below Graded level. This is tougher, but like Rattle N Roll he is coming into the race on the crest of a wave.

Turn the calendar back to last July and Kuchar (10-1) was runner-up to Rattle N Roll in that mile-sixteenth American Derby at Churchill Downs, beaten two lengths with no kick in deep stretch. Kuchar made his first start since when runner-up in an allowance at Aqueduct last month, pipped by a head when closing fast, and should be sharper today, although he’ll need a career-best.

Stakes debutant Speed Bias (8-1) was beaten when favourite for an Oaklawn Park allowance last time and hasn’t shown he wants this class hike, while Florida shipper Clapton (6-1) was a longshot winner of the G3 Ghostzapper at home-field Gulfstream Park when the first two favourites both ran stinkers, so that form isn’t as good as it might look at first glance and he shapes like an underlay.

It’s hard to like Cooke Creek (10-1), who won his first two starts at Delaware Park but has lost nine straight (six in stakes) since then, while Armando R (15-1) seems to reserve his best for Lasix days at Laurel Park and makes no appeal off the meds away from his favourite circuit.

Pimlico Special Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
KucharIrad Ortiz, Jr.+1000
Rattle N RollFlavien Prat+180
ClaptonEmisael Jaramillo+600
Armando RHoracio Karamanos+1500
Law ProfessorManuel Franco+250
Cooke CreekJoel Rosario+1000
Speed BiasLuis Saez+800
Keystone FieldTyler Gaffalione+1000

This may not take much winning and is best left to RATTLE N ROLL, who is very effective at this level and whose recent G3 victory gives him a clear class edge.

Miss Preakness Stakes

G3, $150,000, 6f dirt, 3yo fillies, 4.07pm ET

As is the case in the Pimlico Special, there are two horses who appear head and shoulders above their rivals in the Miss Preakness and they both come into the race off the back of a career-best.

Strong morning-line favourite Key Of Life (1/1) has never been off the board in her life, and made a successful transition to Graded company when going gate-to-wire in the G2 Beaumont at Keeneland over seven furlongs, hanging on bravely to her advantage to get home by a neck with the third horse a long way back.

She was all out on her first try at that distance and should definitely appreciate cutting back a furlong here, with her freewheeling victory in a six-furlong stakes at Oaklawn Park in March – Topsy (8-1) six lengths back in fourth, giving up her unbeaten record on her stakes debut – showing that speed is her long suit. If she gets her way out front she could be hard to bring back.

She could have company on the lead, though, as main rival Maple Leaf Mel (8-5) has led at every call in all three of her starts, two last summer at Saratoga and then when coming back in a state-bred stakes at Aqueduct in March off a seven-month layoff.

Maple Leaf Mel rolled them flat over six furlongs at the Big A, showing no sign of rustiness as she powered to victory by seven and three-quarter lengths, and she’s upgrading fast although she’ll need another career-best to bridge the class gap to Key Of Life. She might have it in her, though.

Stakes debutante Afternoon Tea (8-1) scrambled home by a neck in a seven-furlong Keeneland maiden – third horse five lengths back – and is off Lasix for the first time. This looks a tough spot for her, as it does for Happy Clouds (15-1), who is three-for-six at Laurel Park in 2023 and won a six-furlong allowance there on her most recent start. With 12 races to her name already, there may not be much scope for improvement.

L Street Lady (20-1) has never raced away from Laurel and won a six-furlong stakes in January, but then sank without trace in a seven-furlong stakes the following month, trailing in last of six. This may be asking too much, while barnmate Bound By Destiny (30-1) was unbeaten in four at Delaware Park in 2022 before giving it up with a shocker in a six-furlong stakes at Laurel, last of seven, and hasn’t been seen for six months.

Miss Preakness Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
L Street LadyJevian Toledo+2000
Key of LifeFlavien Prat+100
Happy CloudsArnaldo Bocachica+1500
Afternoon TeaIrad Ortiz, Jr.+800
TopsyTyler Gaffalione+800
Maple Leaf MelJoel Rosario+160
Bound by DestinySheldon Russell+3000

This shapes up as a speed duel between unbeaten Maple Leaf Mel and G2 winner KEY OF LIFE, and the latter can take advantage of class relief to stay ahead.

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