BLACK EYED SUSAN | PURSE: $500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8-MILES
Jockey Joel Rosario's remarkable run continued May 17 when he cleverly brought Fiftyshadesofhay from off the pace to win the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Rosario, who will ride Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the Preakness Stakes May 18, took his mount in hand to rate sxith early on, atypical of her usual running style. After closing well and altering course to the outside in upper stretch, the Bob Baffert-trained filly reached the wire in front under strong right-handed urging to win by a neck over 12-1 shot Marathon Lady.
Final time for the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-old fillies was 1:52.73 over a fast track by the runner owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman.
The deviation from Fiftyshadesofhay's typical tactics surprised even Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The Pulpit filly's two previous wins, a maiden effort and the Jan. 26 Santa Ysabel Stakes, were earned in a respective gate-to-wire and in front from the half-mile marker home manner.
"I said 'Ride her the way you feel,' and then when he had her back, I thought 'Oh boy, this is something new!'" Baffert remarked. "Is he a riding sunofagun or what? I thought she'd run well, but I was surprised when he took her back like that."
Fiftyshadesofhay bided her time behind the pace set by Maracuya, who went a quarter in :23.91 and a half in :48.71 while leading Toasting by a length. The frontrunner held for three-quarters in 1:13.26 while Fiftyshadesofhay was still fifth, with six lengths to make up. Maracuya then succumbed to Marathon Lady, who moved up to challenge leaving the far turn.
"She was kind of climbing a little bit from the dirt, but once I got her to the outside she was really comfortable," Rosario said of the early going aboard the winner. "Right when I passed the three-eighths pole, turning for home, she let herself get away from me a little bit and I kind of worried about it, but she was able to get it back together."
The mile went in 1:38.88, with Fiftyshadesofhay swerving around the heels of Toasting in midstretch. She did not lose momentum and forged ahead of Marathon Lady in the final strides.
"I didn't want to get her stuck inside; Bob told me she's kind of one-paced, just keeps going, so I thought it was a little bit better to maybe be on the outside, hopefully not too wide. She was able to put it all together," Rosario said.
"When I turned for home, I never thought I was going to get there, but right when I passed the last sixteenth pole I could see the horse in front of me, my horse was coming and the leader was backing up a little bit, so I said I'm in good shape."
Jockey Robby Albarado thought he had the race won with Marathon Lady until the last jump.
"I had a lot of horse under me the entire race," he said. "Something must have happened to [4-5 favorite Emollient] because I thought she'd be up front. I found myself lying third and very comfortable at every point. I thought I had it won until right before the wire."
Emollient was unable to overcome a stumble at the break and ran sixth in the field of seven.
"She had a pretty good stumble leaving the gate, which didn't help," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said of the Ashland Stakes winner. "Obviously, she got back a little further and had to overcome that. It looked like to me she might have been fighting that racetrack. The main track might not be her best surface, so you might see her try the turf course next time."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith confirmed Mott's statement.
"She stumbled out of the gate really bad, and she caught her leg. It was pretty much over for us after that," he said.
Toasting finished third, Maracuya ran fourth, Petit Trianon was fifth, and Lady Banks completed the order of finish. Manuka Honey and Walkwithapurpose scratched.
Third in the Santa Anita Oaks in her most recent start April 6, Fiftyshadesofhay was sent off as the 5-2 second choice and paid $6.60, $3.80, and $3. Marathon Lady, who looked like a winner in deep stretch, settled for second and returned $8.40 and $4.80. Toasting brought $5.40 to show. The exacta was worth $54.
Fiftyshadesofhay gave her high-profile conditioner his third win in the Black-Eyed Susan, following Yearly Report in 2004 and Silverbulletday in 1999. The sophomore filly raced with blinkers for the first time since she her third career start. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm out of the Real Quiet mare Quiet Kim, she improved her record to 3-2-2 from nine starts, with earnings of $492,490.
"We wanted to make the Kentucky Oaks with her, but she got a little sick on us. I'm just happy for Karl Watson, who couldn't make it. Karl, we got the money!" Baffert said.
Jack Shinar contributed to this report