Admittedly due to my love of true stamina tests, the Belmont Stakes is, hands-down, my favorite of the Triple Crown races, closely followed by the Kentucky Derby with all its pageantry and then finally the Preakness. No offense to Pimlico or all my Maryland friends, but, irrationally I suppose, I always associate it with disappointment, as in all of my favorite Derby winners (and thus potential Triple Crown champions) that failed to capture the second jewel beginning with Foolish Pleasure, Genuine Risk (damn you, Angel Cordero), Winning Colors…the list goes on. I’m not a fan of I’ll Have Another, mostly due to his disgraceful excuse for a trainer (if this isn’t enough to convince you, then consider these folks with more recent concrete examples). Thus, I won’t be too disappointed when he loses on Saturday. I like Bodemeister, but actually think a new shooter will be even better, hopefully Tiger Walk or Cozzetti. I’ll have more thoughts on Saturday’s undercard later.
Today, it’s Black-Eyed Susan day, as well as the Female Jockey Challenge at Pimlico, featuring top-notch riders Rosie Napravnik, Emma-Jayne Wilson, Forest Boyce, Vicky Baze, Rosemary Homeister Jr., Tammi Piermarini and Greta Kuntzweiler. Apparently pin-up girl Chantal Sutherland is too busy riding two maiden claimers at Hollywood Park to make the trip east, but she won’t be missed. The ladies earn points for finishing in the top 4 placings; for those interested, the scoring races are the second, third, fifth and seventh races (and they will be riding against men in each race).
Race 8 is the Miss Preakness Stakes, featuring the awesome, undefeated Agave Kiss. She worked nicely over the Pimlico track this week and, with her speed, will likely be hard to beat. Cutting back in distance from her third-place finish in the Grade 3 Comely against Kentucky Oaks runner-up Broadway’s Alibi, Sagamore Farm’s Millionreasonswhy is my sentimental pick, but think Singlet could also be dangerous cutting back; she ran well early with Broadway’s Alibi. And what the hell is D. Wayne Lukas thinking putting Colonial Empress in here? Seriously, unless you’re just trying to get more black-type to retire her as early as possible, why not drop her down into maiden company and build up her confidence?
In the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, last year’s winner Maryland-bred 6-year-old Ben’s Cat returns, but he’s all the way out in post 11—ugh! Another senior citizen, Ju Jitsu Jax breaks right inside him, but appears in a bit better form. From a much-better post position, Zeb looks promising, having run third last-out in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland—he’s also won with Rosie Napravnik aboard before, so I’m hoping to get a good price on him. Cactus Son also looks suited to the distance and comes out of a strong Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill.
I handicapped the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for ThoroFan; you can check out my thoughts here. Looking for a price, I landed on Welcome Guest, but I’m afraid she’ll be the “wise guy” pick for too many and thus not be as lucrative a choice as she could be. Hoping Glinda The Good might add a little more to my exotics payout, but also think In Lingerie is good play.
In the Very One Stakes, Inspired and Well Deserved both come out of the Giant’s Causeway turf sprint at Keeneland, and will thus likely garner much favoritism. That said, I’m intrigued by the 3-year-olds, Jazzy Idea and especially Sensible Lady who failed horribly against Agave Kiss in the Trevose, but looks to like turf better.
And, boy, didn’t the Pimlico Special come up strong? Alternation is riding a three-race win streak, all at Oaklawn, but I’m thinking Yawanna Twist may run big here. Sentimentally though, I’d love to see Endorsement win—he’s been a long-time favorite ever since I cashed on his Sunland Derby win, and it’s always good to see a once-injured horse make it back to the track. Considering Martin Garcia rode him when he broke his maiden, the jockey switch doesn’t bother me, and he’s certainly bred to get the distance. Hymn Book really disappointed last out in the Oaklawn Handicap, but he should be flying late for a piece; despite his fast workouts, I’m still not sold on Mission Impazible although he does gain a nice weight advantage against the others.
While he never ran at Pimlico, well-traveled Mambo Meister will be remembered with an 8-furlong turf overnight stakes at Calder on May 26. Another gallant warrior, 9-year-old Presious Passion returns on Saturday, in the Elkwood Stakes at Monmouth—hard to believe he’s been retired now since January 2011! Here’s to a safe journey, old boy.