Fans don’t have to wait until Saturday to share in the excitement of Preakness weekend at Pimlico. The Friday, May 19 card features 14 races, including three graded stakes that are part of the 50-cent Late Pick 4. Favorites went winless in last year’s sequence that included the G-III Miss Preakness, G-III Pimlico Special and G-II Black-Eyed Susan, producing a $1,085 payout per winning ticket from a pool of more than $728,000. Here’s a closer look at this year’s Pick 4 with a suggested $40 ticket:
PIM 10th race (4:07 EST) -- All of the Miss Preakness entrants make their Pimlico debut, none more intriguing than MAPLE LEAF MEL. She led at every call in three starts against New York breds – two in stakes company – winning by a combined 16-1/4 lengths while being geared down late. Her speed will be tested, but her stretch run in the $100,000 East View off a seven-month layoff was visually impressive and suggests she can handle the step up in class. KEY OF LIFE, the only graded stakes winner in today’s race, set the pace in the G-II Beaumont at Keeneland, kicked clear at the top of the stretch and repelled the fast-charging second favorite in the final sixteenth to prevail. The cutback from 7F to 6F suits her well. AFTERNOON TEA arrives from Keeneland off a 7F maiden victory but is a longshot to consider, nonetheless, with the projected pace scenario. She broke sharply from post 12 to secure good stalking position, ranged up 4-wide at the top of the stretch and prevailed after an extended drive to the wire.
PIM 11th race (4:38 EST) -- BREATH AWAY, bumped leaving the gate, trailed to mid-turn in the 7-1/2F Sanibel Island Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf, but the 3-year-old filly weaved through traffic and exploded in deep stretch to win going away. Her stablemate, fourth-place finisher Aunt Shriley, came back to win an allowance race at Aqueduct by 4-1/2 lengths with an 87 Beyer. She is today’s Pick 4 solo play in the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes at one mile.
PIM 12th race (5:10 EST) -- LAW PROFESSOR was rank entering the backstretch in the G-III Razorback Handicap two starts ago, engaged in a long duel with the favorite and tired badly in mid-stretch to finish behind two rivals who returned with graded stakes victories in their next start. He, too, bounced back with a sharp score in the Excelsior Handicap at the 1-1/8-mile distance where he is twice graded stakes placed. He backed off an early pace battle, cruised to command on the final turn and equaled the top speed figure of his career. RATTLE AND ROLL saved ground, gained steadily on his own courage and responded with his second G-III route victory when guided to the 3-path for the stretch run in the Ben Ali Stakes at the same distance of today’s Pimlico Special. He is the one to beat with three triple-digit Beyers in his last four starts. SPEED BIAS might be out-classed but he ran to his bullet workouts at Oaklawn Park with a win and two seconds in allowance company and has tactical speed to loom an upset chance.
PIM 13th race (5:44 EST) – Unbeaten FAIZA probably will be the most popular play in the Pick 4. She won four graded stakes in a row and is perfect in five starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won the Black-Eyed Susan three times. However, with favorites dotting our ticket already, I’ll take a shot and go nine-deep in here on the grounds that it is Faiza’s first start outside California and the graded stakes rivals she defeated were 0-for-16 with two seconds in their next start, with no speed figures above 78.
Suggested 50-cent Ticket
PIM 10th Race: 2, 4, 6
PIM 11TH Race: 1
PIM 12th Race: 2, 5, 7
PIM 13th Race: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Cost for 50-Cent Ticket: $40.50