Trainer Todd Pletcher won his fourth Black-Eyed Susan Stakes when Stopchargingmaria caught Vero Amore in the last few strides to triumph by a neck at Pimlico Race Course May 16. The $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan is for 3-year-old fillies and is run for 1.125 miles.
Image of Anna, a long shot, set the pace for the 11-starter field through most of the race, taking the lead at the clubhouse turn and holding it through the backstretch as Vero Amore stayed close. Vero Amore caught the fading Image of Anna in the far turn and took the lead heading down the stretch with Stopchargingmaria close on the outside.
Down the stretch with a few strides left before the finish line, Stopchargingmaria, with Javier Castellano riding, gained ground with each head bob and won by a neck. Stopchargingmaria covered the 1.125 miles in 1:51.79 on track conditions listed as good, and paid $9.60 to win. Vero Amore, with Frankie Pennington aboard, was second, and Fortune Pearl, with Trevor McCarthy in the irons, was third.
The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes was run under partially sunny skies, a pleasant surprise considering the torrential downpour that hit the Baltimore region during the morning. Although wet conditions forced the day's turf races -- which made up six of the 13 races -- onto the dirt track, overall conditions for spectators were good. The infield concerts, headlined by Counting Crows, were held as scheduled.
Black-Eyed Susan Day is the prelude to the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes May 17, when Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome will continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown.
Stopchargingmaria trainer Pletcher had winning horses during the Black-Eyed Susan in 2005, 2007 and 2012 before doing it again this year.
"It was a terrific performance," Pletcher said. "We actually got shuffled back a little bit going to the first turn. We were hoping to be a little closer."
Stopchargingmaria came out of the No. 4 post position.
"Javier was able to move her to the outside and get a good position, and she really picked it up," Pletcher said. "Once she got to the outside on the far turn, she started to make her move and she was rolling. This was certainly her best race."
Stopchargingmaria had won two stakes races as a 2-year-old, but was having a so-so 2014 until her win during the Black-Eyed Susan May 16. During two starts this year, her best finish was a fourth.
Vero Amore, running from the No. 10 gate, went off at 15-1 and looked as if she was headed for an upset win.
"I thought I had it coming off the turn and we'd kick on," Vero Amore jockey Pennington said. "I thought we were going to keep on going, then the horse came alongside of me and we just got beat. She gave me everything she could. I'm very proud of her."
McKay Turf Sprint
Ben's Cat, the favorite for the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, made a stretch run to the winner's circle during the five-furlong race, which was moved off the turf and onto the dirt at Pimlico Race. The McCay Turf Sprint immediately preceded the Black Eyed Susan Stakes
Ben's Cat, with Julian Pimentel in the irons, spent most of the race stalking Great Attack and went into high gear during the last couple of hundred yards to win by 1.75 lengths in a field of five starters. A 2-5 favorite, Ben's Cat covered the five furlongs in 57.75 seconds and paid $2.80 to win. Kendrick Carmouche rode Great Attack, and Smash and Grab finished third with Jevian Toledo aboard.
The field was reduced to five contenders after four scratches.
Velazquez Wins Challenge
John Velazquez took first place during a seven-jockey contest that featured seven of the eight active Hall of Fame jockeys on Black-Eyed Susan Day. The jockeys competed in four designated races during the $50,000 Xpressbet Hall of Fame Jockey Challenge and were awarded points based on their finishes.
Velazquez won two of the four challenge races to accumulate 27 points, five more than Kent Desormeaux. Velazquez collected $50,000.