Framed by a rainbow that arched over the Pimlico Race Course backstretch, Actress battled and danced and then galloped through a sloppy Pimlico track soaked by a sudden rainstorm to win the 93rd Black-Eyed Susan Stakes by a nose over Lights of Medina May 19. Black-Eyed Susan Day, a prelude to the Preakness Stakes May 20, features a card of races that mostly consists of fillies and mares.
The $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, a 1 1/8-mile race over the dirt for three-year old fillies, featured a field of 11 contenders, including Moana who was ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Todd Pletcher. Coincidentally, Preakness favorite and Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, has the same tandem of Velazquez as jockey and Pletcher as trainer.
While Moana tried to contend early with Tapa Tapa Tapa setting the pace, the race eventually belonged to Actress who tried to bull her way between two horses in the stretch, but was cut off, pulled up, swung outside and then went jump-for-jump with Lights of Medina to win by a nose in 1:51.87. Actress, ridden by Nik Juarez and trained by Jason Servis, rewarded her backers with $27.60 to win, $10.60 to place and $7.80 to show. In her only two previous races, Actress finished second both times and also came off the pace in those outings.
Second-place finisher Lights of Medina, who was ridden by Feargal Lynch and also trained by Pletcher, paid $5.80 and $4.60, and the third-place filly Corporate Queen, with Joel Rosario in the irons, paid $10.20.
Most of the afternoon at Pimlico featured sweltering heat but just before the race preceding the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, a sudden summer storm rolled into the Baltimore area and drenched the racetrack. The weather left the rainbow and a muddy track.
The wet surface didn't deter Actress, though.
"I really wasn't concerned (about an off track)," Servis said. "With her pedigree she should run on anything." Actress' sire is Tapit, who is regarded as one of the racing industry's top sires.
Juarez said his filly isn't intimidated by "being behind the dirt" -- indeed, she responds to it.
"They were running fast up front and I was sitting behind," the jockey said. "She ate the dirt up. When she made her move, she really started running and carried it on."
Pletcher called it a "tough beat" for Lights of Medina.
"She just missed by a head bob," Pletcher said. "It was a great effort by her. I thought she was going to get (Actress), but she didn't."
Just before the start of the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, the heavens opened and a driving rain pelted Pimlico and sent spectators scurrying for cover. The sprint, named after the late Maryland sportscaster, turned into a two-horse duel between eventual winner Richard's Boy and Pay Any Price. In the stretch, the two horses swapped the lead before Richard's Boy took command just yards from the finish line and won in :56.20. In winning the five-furlong sprint for three-year olds and up, Richard's Boy, a five-year old gelding ridden by Paco Lopez, paid $7.80 to win. Pay Any Price was ridden by Edgard Zayas. Finishing third was Amelia's Wild Ride with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
The $300,000 Pimlico Special was won by overwhelming favorite Shaman Ghost who caught Dolphus at the wire in the 1 3/16-mile race for horses three-years old and up. Shaman Ghost, a five-year old ridden by Javier Castellano, made his charge in stretch while Dolphus tried to hang on gamely with Rajiv Maragh in the aboard. Despite Dolphus' efforts, Shaman Ghost won by a neck. He finished in 1:54.55 and paid $2.80 to win. Finishing third was Conquest Windycity ridden by Luis Saez.
Although the race was a battle to the end, Shaman Ghost jockey Javier Castellano said, "I could have gone to the lead any time, but I didn't want to. He's very straightforward. You can put him wherever you want."
The $150,000 Adena Springs' Miss Preakness Stakes was won by Vertical Oak by 3 3/4 lengths with Our Majesty second and My Miss Chiff third. Ridden by Ortiz, Vertical Oak, a three-year old filly, won the six-furlong sprint for three-year old fillies in 1:10.06 and paid $15.60 to win. Our Majesty was ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., and My Miss Chiff had Rosario in the irons.
In the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes, Happy Mesa, a three-year old filly, won the 1-mile turf race in 1:33.1. Happy Mesa, ridden by Castellano, came from well off the pace and was in fourth at the top of the stretch but rallied to win and paid $9.60 in the race for three-year old fillies. Following Happy Mesa across the finish line were Compelled, with Lopez aboard, in second and Dynatail, with Orlando Bocachica in the irons, in third.
In the $150,000 Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes, Terra Promessa, a four-year old filly ridden by Ortiz, got out in front early and breezed to a 7 1/2-length win covering 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares, three-years and up, in 1:49.12. Terra Promessa, the favorite, paid $4.20 to win. Following Terra Promessa across the finish line was Carrumba with Castellano in the irons in second and Mo' Green, ridden by Velazquez, in third.