With all the rain Maryland has been receiving this week, it’s likely that conditions will be wet for the Friday card at Pimlico Race Course. Here’s my analysis of the stakes action that’ll be taking place in the latter part of the card.
Race 9: The Pimlico Special (G3) – 8-2-5
#8 Something Awesome is my top pick in here. He’s only 3/4 of a length away from being undefeatedin his six starts since switching to the barn of Jose Corrales in Maryland. Last time out, he passed a class test in winning the G2 Charles Town Classic, where he posted his second consecutive triple digit Beyer.
#2 One Liner won last year’s Southwest Stakes as a three-year-old. He returned off a year layoff to finish third in a Gulfstream Park allowance behind Conquest Windycity and Mind Your Biscuits. While he was five lengths behind that pair, it was a reasonable effort for his comeback, and he followed it up with a smart allowance win at Keeneland on April 21st. He seems to be coming back into his best form, and we could be yet to see the best from this lightly raced four-year-old. He runs for the same trainer and ownership group at Hedge Fund, and is co-favored at 7/2 on the morning line with his stablemate.
#5 Hedge Fund had a major excuse in his most recent race, where he hopped at the start and was taken out of his game. I expect him to be on the lead early just inside of Afleet Willy, and if he runs back to his win in the Essex Handicap, where he was not left alone on the lead but still prevailed, he has a big chance in here. Being by Super Saver and out of a Distorted Humor mare, he should want all of this 1 3/16ths distance.
Race 10: The Jim McKay Turf Sprint – 7-4-3
#7 Hogy is the morning line favorite and the horse to beat in here. This classy, consistent old timer is as good as ever at nine year old, and I’m willing to forgive his disappointing effort behind Heart to Heart in the Makers 46 Mile last time out – while primarily a sprinter for most of his career, he was good enough to stretch out to win the G3 Canadian Turf at eight furlongs in impressive fashion, but this is what he’s always done. He’s coming into this race off a very sharp 4f drill in :47 4/5 on May 5th at Churchill Downs, so I think it’s safe to say that all systems are go for this Michael Maker trainee. If he runs his race, he is simply better than every horse in this race – with the possible exception of the unknown quantity, Imprimis.
#4 Oak Bluffs has really blossomed with age under the training of Mary Eppler, and this will be the eight-year-old gelding’s first attempt in graded stakes company. He added blinkers three starts back, and has run very well in all three efforts with the hood, including a runner-up finish in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint behind the very talented sprinter Rainbow Heir at over 35-1. He came back to win an allowance at Gulfstream on February 18th over Frisky Magician, who ran a respectable 5th, beaten less than three lengths behind Will Call in the G3 TwinSpires Turf Sprint in his next race. Mary Eppler wins at 27% with horses coming off layoffs of 61-180 days, and while his recent main track works have been slow, he shows a sneakily good 4f drill on March 23rd where he was clocked in :47 flat as the third fastest of 32 workers on the day. I think he’s going to run a huge race today, but the wet turf course could be an issue – he shows two races on a yielding turf course in his form, and both were poor efforts. He seems to be a better horse nowadays, though, so I think he’s still a major player in here.
#3 Imprimis is the new shooter in here, making his stakes debut after three straight victories to start off his career. He posted a 99 Beyer in winning an allowance at Gulfstream on March 24th, and has the versatility to stalk the pace if someone else is dead set on sending, or jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. can simply send the son of Broken Vow to the front from the get-go if the situation allows. He’s never faced horses of this quality before, but he appears to have a lot of talent and could be any kind for Joe Orseno and Breeze Easy LLC.
Race 11: The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) – 9-7
#9 Sara Street is coming off a half-length defeat in Aqueduct’s Gazelle Stakes behind My Miss Lilly. She received a 91 Beyer for the race – the lifetime highest of any other horse in the field is 86. She’s a talented filly and this looks like a good spot for her to get her first stakes win. Being by Street Sense and out of the graded stakes winning Malibu Moon mare Sara Louise (who won the G3 Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga on a sloppy track), she should thrive on a sloppy track.
#7 Goodonehoney may be just that for trainer Jason Egan. She was ultra-impressive in her victory in Laurel Park’s Weber City Miss Stakes on April 21st, and while this is a big step up in class, it’s also only the third lifetime start for the daughter of Great Notion, so I expect her to continue to improve. She could get the lead in here, as her :46 3/5 half-mile time in the Weber City Miss is the fastest fractional of any horse in the race, but she showed a lot of professionalism in her debut, where she broke slow and was bottled up behind horses before going on to win by 4 3/4 lengths. I think she’s ultra-talented and belongs with this group.
Race 12: The Hilltop Stakes – 8-4
#8 Thewayiam is 3/5 on the morning line, and deservedly so. She’s by and far the class of the field as a 2-time graded stakes winner in a race without a single other stakes winner in the field. She was beaten only a length by Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Rushing Fall in the G2 Appalachian at Keeneland last time out, and it’s tough to see her losing in here.
#4 Jehozacat is my choice to fill out the exacta here. She’s a daughter of MG1W Precious Kitten (herself a half to the great Kitten’s Joy), and ran an okay race in the 6f Mizdirection Stakes at Aqueduct in her last race, actually posting a career-high Beyer figure of 75 in the race, where she finished 7th but was beaten only 2 3/4 lengths. I think she wants to go further than that, and her only race at this mile distance was a victory in an allowance at Tampa Bay Downs. She’s a very nice filly, and while probably not good enough to beat the favorite, I think she’s a clear second best in here.
Race 13: The Allaire Dupont Distaff (G3) – 7-5-6
#7 Blue Prize has finished off the board only once in 12 lifetime starts, and she’s coming off a nice win in the Top Flight Invitational last time out. In a race without much earlyt speed, she should be in a great spot to track potential pacesetter Katalust – or, if that one opts to run earlier in the card, she could very well find herself on the lead here.
#5 Song of Spring made her graded stakes debut last time out in Keeneland’s G3 Doubledogdare Stakes, where she finished third beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by Valdorna and Apologynotaccepted. She looks to be on the improve for trainer Neil Howard, and while she is capable of a big closing kick, she’s also shown enough tactical speed to be in a good position regardless of the pace scenario.
#6 Verve’s Tale is a very consistent mare, and while she was defeated by Blue Prize as the odds-on favorite in the Top Flight, she didn’t run a poor race off the two-month layoff, and should show an improved effort here. She’s the kind of horse who always runs her race, and jockey Irad Ortiz should be able to work out an advantageous trip regardless of the pace scenario.