Preakness weekend begins today at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore with the running of the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (Post Time: 4:47 pm Eastern; TV: NBCSN). Similar to the Kentucky Oaks, the Black-Eyed Stakes is a race for three-year-old fillies at a mile and an eighth on the main track.
Let's take a look at the field for the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes:
1-Manuka Honey (10/1): A filly that likes to set the pace, Manuka Honey finished second in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn in her most recent start after romping in the ungraded Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs in early March. She can run a big race if left alone on the lead but that will be a tough task in this race given all the speed to her outside in the starting gate.
2-Lady Banks (30/1): She won the ungraded Ruthless Stakes on the Aqueduct inner dirt track this winter but didn't run a lick in either the G2-Davona Dale on Feb 23 or the G2-Beaumont at Keeneland on April 14. We can probably toss that Beaumont race with the belief that she didn't like running on the Polytrack at Keeneland, but it's harder to make excuses for her Davona Dale. On the positive side, at least she can win a race when she races from off the pace.
3-Fiftyshadesofhay (2/1): The second choice on the morning line favorite won the G3-Santa Ysabel back on Jan 26 and then finished second and third in the G1-Las Virgenes and the G1-Santa Anita Oaks. She tends to run best when she's up on the lead but I'm not sure that's the right tactic for this filly in this particular race. If jockey Joel Rosario is able to rate this filly in the early stages, she'll have a much better chance of success. However, trainer Bob Baffert has added the blinker for the Black-Eyed Susan so, if anything, she might display more speed from the gate.
4-Petit Trianon (20/1): This local filly has yet to try graded stakes but she's run well in a couple of allowance events prior to this race. Petit Trianon is another filly looking to lead the field in the early stages, a common refrain in this year's Black-Eyed Susan.
5-Walkwithapurpose (5/1): This filly has won five of her seven career races including a couple of ungraded stakes races at Laurel Park this winter. And while she prefers to run up on the lead, Walkwithapurpose has won a race where she was a length or two off of the leaders after the first half mile, something she'll probably need to revisit in order to guarantee success in this race. [UPDATE: Walkwithapurpose has been scratched from the Black-Eyed Susan with a foot bruise, according to the Brisnet.com.]
6-Maracuya (8/1): Two starts down in Florida this winter with two wins. Tell me if you've read this before somewhere in this preview: Maracuya likes to show early speed and race on lead. It's starting to get crowded up front. I'm sensing a pattern.
7-Emollient (9/5): The morning line favorite blew away her rivals when winning the G1-Ashland Stakes at Keeneland back on April 6, but that race came over a synthetic surface, something she won't be running on today at Pimlico. Perhaps the best attribute for Emollient in this race is the face that her two prior wins on dirt both involved her siting a length or two behind the leaders through the first half-mile. With all of the aforementioned speed in this year's Black-Eyed Susan, a filly that can win from off the pace is going to have a big advantage.
8-Toasting (20/1): She's run well on a sloppy/sealed track in the past, so keep an eye on this filly if things were to get wet a Pimlico today. She prefers to stalk the leaders in the early stages.
9-Marathon Lady (12/1): Finished third in the G3-Fantasy Stakes on April 10 and second by a nose in the G3-Bourbonette Oaks on the Polytrack at Turfway on March 23. The lone win in her five race career saw her lead the field from gate-to-wire. Hmmm.
What do you do when you have a race where almost every filly in the field wants to run on or near the lead right from the starting gate, because that's what we have on our hands in this year's Black-Eyed Susan. Nine fillies will enter the starting gate this afternoon and not one of them is a stone-cold closer.
It's no fun going with a chalk play but it's hard to back some of these mid to long shot types in this race when they all want to contest the lead throughout the race. Emollient as shown she can rate off of the leaders in prior dirt wins and, if she's able to run a similar style in the Black-Eyed Susan, she should be the filly to beat. If we're looking for an upset play, perhaps we go all the way to the highest odds in the field, Lady Banks. While her recent races are pretty ugly, she at least is a filly that prefers to come from off the pace in her races.