Black-Eyed Susan Day was a wet and muddy preview of what likely awaits the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Featuring a card of top 3-year-old fillies, the 94th Black-Eyed Susan was run on a sloppy track May 18 with the 143rd Preakness Stakes set for the following day. Rain that drenched the Baltimore region most of the week leading up to Preakness weekend almost ensured that the two premiere days of racing at Pimlico would be marked by wet conditions.
Undeterred by the muck, Red Ruby, with Paco Lopez aboard, passed Coach Rocks on Pimlico's far turn and won the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes by 4 3/4 lengths. The Kellyn Gorder-trained gray filly covered the 1 1/8 miles on dirt in 1:50.17.
Coach Rocks is co-owned by former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. Pitino was fired in October as Louisville's coach as a federal investigation into the college's program unfolded.
Coach Rocks led from the starting gate, along the backstretch and going through the far turn but was caught at that turn by Red Ruby, who went three wide. Red Ruby took the lead at the top of stretch and then drifted back to the rail as she stretched her lead.
"They told me to come from a little behind, not too close, but she broke very good," Lopez said. "I put her second and she was very comfortable. I waited for her until the three-eighths [pole], I looked and no one was coming. I said, 'I got to go,' and she finished very well today."
Coach Rocks, with Luis Saez aboard, was on a quick turnaround after finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks May 4.
The third-place finisher was Indy Union with Jose Ortiz riding.
Red Ruby paid $7.80, $4.00. $3.20. Coach Rocks paid $4.20, $3.20. Indy Union paid $4.60.
Irish War Cry went wire-to-wire in winning the $300,000 Pimlico Special for 3-year-olds and up by 4 1/2 lengths. The 4-year-old colt was ridden by Jose Ortiz. Second place was a dead heat between One Liner and Untrapped. Irish War Cry went the 1 3/16 miles on the dirt in 1:55.51 and paid $10.00 to win. While Irish War Cry cruised to the finish line, the battle for second provided thrills as Untrapped made a last-second effort to catch One Liner. Untrapped was ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., and Saez was aboard One Liner.
The Pimlico Special was a comeback effort for Irish War Cry. After a brilliant start to his career, including a win in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack in April 2017, he had not crossed the finish line first in his last six outings.
"I really think the hot, humid weather at Gulfstream [in Florida] doesn't agree with him," trainer Graham Motion said. "He's run his two poorest races down there. I think getting the cooler air of today is like running at Aqueduct [in New York] last year. It's just a different deal. It was very reassuring."
The $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint for 3-year-olds and up was won by Imprimis, who covered the five furlongs in 1:03.81. Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the 4-year-old dark bay gelding paid $3.60. He was chased across the finish line by Rocket Heat in second and Oak Bluffs in third. Rocket Heat was ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., and Oak Bluffs had Paco Lopez in the irons.
In the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Happy Like A Fool bested a nine-horse field with a 6 1/2-length triumph. Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, the chestnut filly covered the six furlongs on the dirt in 1:10.12. Happy Like A Fool assumed an early lead, took the turn at two wide and lengthened her advantage in the dash to the finish line, paying $10.40 to win. The second-place finisher was Artistic Diva with Javier Castellano aboard, and Buy Sell Hold was third with Santana in the irons.
The $100,000 Skipat Stakes, a six-furlong race on the dirt for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, was won by Vertical Oak, one of the favorites in a field of five horses. Vertical Oak paid $4.60 to win. The chestnut filly, ridden by Santana, finished in 1:10.35 and beat StartwithSilver by 1 1/2 lengths. Irad Ortiz Jr. was aboard StartwithSilver. Another favorite, Ms Locust Point, finished third with Vargas riding.
In the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes, Souper Striking, with Julian Pimentel riding, won the one-mile race on turf for 3-year-old fillies in 1:51.72. Souper Striking paid $4.80. Secret Message, with Castellano in the irons, was second. Peach of a Gal, with Vargas in the irons, was third.
In the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes, a Grade III for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, Song of Spring went from last to first to pay $21.00. Song of Spring covered the 1 1/8 miles on dirt in 1:51.10. Santana was the jockey. Blue Prize, with Jose Ortiz aboard, finished second. Fuhriously Kissed, with Castellano riding, was third.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club