Main Line Racing Stable's Joint Return, four-for-five with two stakes victories, seeks her first graded win in the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico Race Course May 16.
The Black-Eyed Susan, race 10 on a 13-race Friday program that begins at noon EDT, will be run at 1 ⅛ miles. It attracted a contentious field of 11. The Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, second leg of the Triple Crown, will be run May 17 at Pimlico.
Trained by John Servis, Joint Return (by Include out of the Brunswick mare Brunswick Star), won the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in January and the Calder Oaks at Calder Casino & Race Course in her last start. In between those two races she finished fifth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on a surface Servis said didn't suit the filly.
BLACK-EYED SUSAN STAKES DRAW
"She just didn't run her race," Servis told Maryland Jockey Club officials. "She just didn't show up. [Jockey Kendrick Carmouche] said she never took a hold of the bit at any part of the race and, for whatever reason, she just wasn't there.
"I'm looking forward to this race, big-time. She has run well against some decent fillies. The only time she ran against real quality fillies was at Gulfstream, and she didn't show up. I'm anxious to see how she performs this week against the better fillies."
Joint Return, based at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, drew post 1 in the Black-Eyed Susan but typically drops off the pace early and then makes her run. Carmouche has a return call on Joint Return, 15-1 on the morning line with 118 pounds.
The 122-pound highweight, Repole Stable's Stopchargingmaria, drew post 4 as the 7-2 early choice with Javier Castellano aboard. She is one of two Todd Pletcher trainees entered in the Black-Eyed Susan; his other is Michael Tabor's Sloane Square, who drew post 8 with jockey Joel Rosario.
Pletcher won his first Black-Eyed Susan in 2005 with Spun Sugar. He followed up with Panty Raid in 2007 and In Lingerie in 2012.
Stopchargingmaria won the Tempted Stakes and Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct to close her juvenile campaign last year, but has yet to recapture that form in 2014. A well-beaten fifth in her 3-year-old debut in the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, she was fourth in her most recent effort, the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park April 5.
"I think like a lot of horses, her running style didn't suit the way Gulfstream was playing at that time of the season," Pletcher said. "We shipped her to Oaklawn and she ran a little better, although I didn't think she ran to her full capabilities. Now, she seems to have moved forward and has been training very enthusiastically, indicating to us that she's back in form. Hopefully, that turns out to be the case."
Unraced at 2, Sloane Square debuted with a pair of victories this year by a combined 11 ¾ lengths, stretching out each time. She won a Gulfstream maiden going 5 ½ furlongs Jan. 19 and romped over winners a month later at Calder before finishing second as the favorite in the one-mile Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks on the Polytrack at Turfway Park last time out. The Giant's Causeway filly is pegged at 5-1.