The Kentucky Derby, with its roses, fancy hats, and mint juleps, is preceded by Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday. The best three year old fillies in the country compete during a day that is somewhat less celebrated but equally as elegant as Saturday's main event. While horses that run in the Oaks generally do not take part in the Black Eyed Susan, the Preakness alternative to the Oaks, run for the ladies on the Friday before Pimlico's biggest day of the year, it is still an afternoon to celebrate Maryland racing, and a nice relatively calm lead-up to the debauchery and excessive crowds of Saturday.
This year’s Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features a field of nine horses going a mile and an eighth. The race appears to have a lot of early speed and may be a question of whether anybody is good enough to beat Emollient. Let’s take a look at the field.
Manuka Honey – During the first five races of her career Manuka Honey was ordinary. A couple of close calls but nothing special. The last three times out she has won twice. Her career best Beyer speed figure is only 80, and while she beat Marathon Lady last time out in the Fantasy Stakes, that race came in the slop. She seems likely to be forwardly placed and there will be a crowd in that position.
Lady Banks – Hasn't run a good race in four months and when she was racing well it came at only six furlongs. Off at big odds in her last two tries she ran like the longshot that she was. You can excuse her last loss saying that she didn't like the synthetic track at Keeneland, and while she ran into a very good field February 23 a Gulfstream, it is hard to put a positive spin on a near 20 length loss.
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Fiftyshadesofhay – Ran into the really talented Beholder, who would be the favorite against this group, in each of her last two starts. Three back she romped at Santa Anita. Twice she has posted Beyer numbers of 90 or higher. She's likely to be near the lead especially with the addition of blinkers today. Derby winning rider Joel Rosario, who has been red hot, takes over from Rafael Bejarano as the jockey.
Petit Trianon – Having raced exclusively in Maryland, Petit Trianon has won three out for career starts against competition a handful of steps inferior to today. She won an allowance race last time out with a career high 72 Beyer figure on the turf. She's a big longshot.
Walkwithapurpose – After winning five straight races in Maryland, Walkwithapurpose went to New York and ran into two really tough customers in Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar finishing third in the Gazelle Stakes on April 6. A stakes winner with a career high Beyer number of 84, she may have had an excuse in New York when her saddle slipped. There is some question whether she wants to run this far a distance.
Maracuya – It is hard to argue with an unbeaten horse. Maracuya is two for two and her win last time out in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park was flattered when the horse she beat by more than a length came back to win a $100,000 race in Florida. She earned a Beyer figure of 90 in her victory on March 31, and appears to be another who will head towards the lead early on.
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Emollient – The favorite today, she got flattened on March 30 in the Gulfstream Park Oaks by Dreaming of Julia. Losing to one of the best three year olds in the world is not the end of the world and she came back to crush a questionable field in the Ashland Stakes just one week later. If she runs the same race as she did in the Ashland, she'll win easily today. Her speed figure of 97, and nine length margin of victory are very impressive. However, that race was on synthetic track and was a sixteenth of a mile shorter than today's distance. If she regresses, the door is open for somebody else.
Toasting – She ran into a quality field at a non wagering event March 11 in Ocala, Florida and finished third on a synthetic surface. In her previous start she romped in the slop in a four horse race that was originally scheduled to be run on turf at Gulfstream Park. She earned a career high 82 Beyer figure in that race on February 15. She adds blinkers today but will also need to add some speed to triumph.
Marathon Lady – She never made a serious bid last time out in the slop at Oaklawn Park losing to Rose to Gold and Manuka Honey. Two back she just missed at 31-1 in a Grade 3 event over a synthetic course at Turfway Park earning a 92 Beyer figure in the tight defeat. Her style, loom a few lengths back and try to pounce with one run towards the end may work out well today. She has experienced her most success with jockey Robbie Albarado and he is the rider today.
The Pick – Emollient and Fiftyshadesofhay are both more than capable but at very short odds are fairly unappealing. Maracuya and Marathon Lday offer some value. I will key my wagers on Maracuya. Even if she loses for the first time, perhaps she hits the board and offers value in exactas and trifectas.