Preakness weekend will kick into high gear with a 14-race card Friday, featuring the Grade III Miss Preakness and Grade II Black-Eyed Susan stakes, both for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade III Pimlico Special for older colts and geldings. All three races are part of a 50-cent, all-stakes Pick 4 wager that shapes up this way:
PIM 10th race (4:07 EST) -- LA CASA D’ORO awakened in her first start for 2021 Maryland Trainer of the Year Brittany Russell, driving clear in mid-stretch to a 5-1/2F maiden win that timed 1-1/5 seconds faster than a same-day allowance won by hard-hitting filly Mattitude (4-9, $164k). She takes a big step up in class in the Grade III Miss Preakness, but she projects an ideal stalking trip in a speed-laden field at a big price. SAUCY LADY T, who rallied for third in three consecutive graded sprints last fall – one against champion Echo Zulu -- makes her seasonal debut for new trainer Graham Motion, who excels with layoff types of 180-plus days. HAPPY SOUL passed by recent Grade II runner-up Pretty Birdie when she won the $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes off an eight-month layoff. She pressed the pace for 6F in the Grade I Ashland in her first route attempt and worked a 5F bullet since then. UNDER THE STARS can be excused for stumbling badly in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks. The 8-5 morning-line favorite is the only graded stakes winner in the field; however, the horses she beat in the 7F Santa Inez are 5/0-0-0 since then, losing by a combined 66 lengths.
PIM 11th race (4:38 EST) -- The 10-percent chance of rain is a favorable weather forecast for PAYNTDEMBLUESAWAY in the $100,000 Very One Stakes. But she’s not on our ticket despite winning 9 of 11 starts sprinting on firm turf courses throughout the East. She starts outside, offers little value and the rivals she defeated in her last three wins were a combined 2-for-24 in their next start. PHANTOM VISION is a better-priced option after she began her sophomore season with back-to-back wins on the main track but couldn’t overcome a very wide trip from post 13 in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes on the Keeneland lawn last out. She dueled on a short lead in her prior turf sprint try before Toby’s Heart, a three-time turf stakes winner in her last nine starts, passed by. HONEY PANTS, installed as the 5-2 morning-line choice, looms equally dangerous after she followed the move of the 7-to-5 allowance favorite and drew away in the final sixteenth while wearing blinkers for the first time.
PIM 12th race (5:10 EST) -- Trainer Todd Pletcher has two live entrants as he seeks his third victory in the Grade III, $300,000 Pimlico Special. VINDICTIVE is our top choice, having won 3 of his last 5 starts at 1-1/8 miles and finishing a troubled third behind Speaker’s Corner, impressive winner of the Grade I Carter Handicap last month. UNTREATED, Pletcher’s uncoupled entrant, will try to avenge a photo-finish setback against FOREWARNED in the Excelsior Stakes in his most recent start. Both finished ahead of favored First Constitution, who came back with a wire-to-wire romp in the 1-3/8-mile Flat Out Stakes. CAPOCOSTELLO, a Grade I winner in Panama at 1-5/16 miles, broke slowly in his U.S. debut, then lagged far back in the Grade III Ghost Zapper Stakes before launching a stretch rally to finish second between winning odds-on favorite Fearless (6-15, $906k) and third-place finisher Greatest Honour, winner of the Grade II Fountain of Youth earlier this year. FIRST CAPTAIN trailed after a half mile but ‘noticeably quickened late’ to reel in the loose leader in a 7F allowance to remain perfect while running on Lasix. He tired in the Grade I Carter Handicap next out, but shows three bullet workouts since then and wears blinkers for the first time.
PIM 13th race (5:44 EST) -- Maryland-based star LUNA BELLE is every bit as good – maybe better – than she looked in winning five consecutive minor stakes by a combined 20 lengths. The farther she ran, the faster she appeared to finish for unheralded jockey Dennis Arajuo. She gets top call in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at 1-1/8 miles. ADARE MANOR shook a duel on the final turn with Grade II winner Ain’t Easy, then battled to a photo-finish setback in the stretch with drifting winner Desert Dawn, who came back to finish third in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. INTERSTATEDAYDREAM ran away from her 1-to-2 stablemate to win off a seven-month layoff, then she set the pace and tired in the Grade I Ashland Stakes won by Kentucky Oaks favorite and runner-up Nest (4-6, $850k). BEGUINE, on the improve since stretching out in distance, rode the rail the entire way and just missed in the Grade III Fantasy. She fired a bullet workout leading up to the Kentucky Oaks, but didn’t draw into the race from the also-eligible list. She is another viable longshot.
Suggested 50-cent Ticket
PIM 10TH Race: 2, 4, 5, 6
PIM 11th Race: 1, 2
PIM 12th Race: 1, 6, 8
PIM 13th Race: 5, 6, 9, 10