The national racing focus shifts to Pimlico this week, as the Baltimore race course presents two full days of stakes racing culminating Saturday with the Grade 1 Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown. There are two graded stakes to be run on Friday, the G1 Black-Eyed Susan and the G3 Pimlico Special, back on the card after a four-year hiatus.
The 10th race in the line-up, the Black-Eyed Susan, is for 3-year-old fillies, the female equivalent of the Preakness, albeit a sixteenth of a mile shorter. Bob Baffert-trained Mamma Kimbo will attempt to stay undefeated as she takes on eight others in this 1 1/8-mile test on dirt. The daughter of Discreet Cat has raced just twice, most recently annexing the G2 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park on April 11. Previous to that she won her maiden at Santa Anita in February, posting a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. Todd Pletcher has entered a pair here with In Lingerie and Disposablepleasure. In Lingerie won the G3 Bourbonette Oaks in March and should relish the longer distance. Disposablepleasure won her maiden and the G2 Demoiselle last fall, but has not been able to duplicate those efforts in two starts this year in graded stakes.
Pletcher also trains Mission Impazible, the tepid morning line favorite in the Pimlico Special two races later. The 5-year-old son of Unbridled's Song is looking for a win here to break his three-race streak as the runner-up. On the other hand, Alternation will be attempting to keep his three-race win skein in tact; the Donnie Von Hemel pupil is undefeated this year, winning the Essex Stakes, the G3 Razorback and G2 Oaklawn handicaps. Also in the nine-horse field are Yawanna Twist and Hymn Book, third and fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap. Previous to that race, Hymn Book was the narrow winner over Mission Impazible in the G1 Donn Handicap. Toby's Corner, Nehro, and G3 Texas Mile winner Endorsement are also expected to start.
The action takes up again on Saturday with four graded stakes which support the Preakness, the 12th race. First of those is the G3 Gallorette Handicap, for older turf females. Zagora is the one to beat here. Given the highest impost of 121 lbs., she is conceding five to eight pounds to her six rivals. Though she lost her last out as favorite in the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, she won a pair of Grade 3 stakes at Tampa Bay earlier this season.
The G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap looks to be a wide-open affair with six of the 10 expected starters at 8-1 or less on the morning line. Immortal Eyes is the only last-out winner (Webb Snyder at Charles Town) here, though Bandbox and Broad Rule come off narrow losses in optional claimers. Hamazing Destiny was a close third in the G3 Count Fleet two back, but was totally over-matched in his most recent, the G2 Churchill Downs. Action Andy won with regularity at Tampa Bay this year, but he too, was over-matched when he faced a tougher group at Gulfstream. Diski Dance will get some play based on his second-place finish to Calibrachoa in the G3 Toboggan in February.
After a dominating performance in her solo effort this year, Awesomemundo makes her stakes debut for Bob Baffert in the G3 Allaire DuPont Distaff. This race has two speedballs in it with Canadian Mistress and Love and Pride. If those two duel each other into the ground, Absinthe Minded or Awesomemundo may be there to pick up the pieces.
A well-matched field of 11 will go to the gate for the G2 Dixie, run on the turf at 1 1/8 miles. Smart Bid has raced twice this year, winning the G3 Fair Grounds Handicap in February, and finishing seventh, three lengths behind the winner, Casino Host, in the Mervin Muniz (G2). Casino Host returns here as well; previous to his Muniz win, he captured an allowance at Gulfstream Park. Air Support won two graded stakes last year and was fifth in his lone start this year, an allowance over the Keeneland sod. Straight Story makes his 2012 bow; he surprised in the G2 Autumn at Woodbine last November, winning at 38-1 over the synthetic surface. Also watch for Trend who has won or placed in each of his most recent eight starts.
The Preakness attracted a field of 11, including six Kentucky Derby starters—I'll Have Another (1st), Bodemeister (2nd), Went the Day Well (4th), Creative Cause (5th), Daddy Nose Best (10th), and Optimizer (11th). It's hard to overlook the obvious talents of Bodemeister and I'll Have Another, but Went the Day Well had a horrible trip in the Derby according to jockey John Velazquez, and was flying fastest of all at the end. New shooters include Teeth of the Dog and Tiger Walk, third and fourth in the Wood Memorial last month behind Gemologist, who flopped in the Derby.
In the Midwest, the only graded stakes is on Saturday at Arlington Park, where a field of 10 was drawn for the G3 Hanshin Cup. Last-out efforts at Keeneland look key here—Scotus and San Antone exit wins in optional claimers, Lonesome Street won the G2 Commonwealth, and Havelock finished fourth in the G3 Shakertown. Taptowne and Gleam of Hope, first and third out of the Cryptoclearance at Hawthorne, are also entered.
Betfair Hollywood Park presents two graded stakes on Saturday, the G3 Railbird and the G2 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap, previously known as the Milady. The Railbird goes as the 3rd race of the day, and drew a compact field of five. Killer Graces capped off her 2011 campaign with a win in the G1 Hollywood Starlet, but is winless in three starts this year, all graded stakes. Sister Moon, two-for-three lifetime, beat three others in her 2012 debut, an allowance over the Santa Anita dirt track.
If Sister Moon pulls off a win in the Railbird, it could be a stakes double for her connections, owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Sadler, who also have Zazu in the Everett. Zazu had a very lucrative 3-year-old campaign, hitting the board in all seven of her starts, all Grade 1 or 2 races. After winning the G1 Lady's Secret on Oct. 1 and appearing headed toward the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, she was forced out of training with a shoulder injury. Zazu will be tested here when she faces Include Me Out and Ellafitz, both graded stakes winners this year, and four others.
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