Thoroughbreds Friday: Garrity picks the day of stakes races at Pimlico.
It's Black-Eyed Susan day at Pimlico, and we're going to revel in all the stakes racing there today. The weather forecast should be great: mostly sunny and a high in the low 80s; it's bluebird racing weather, and it should be just as good tomorrow. Rain, at long last, will not be an issue.
We're going to look only at the races at Old Hilltop in Baltimore, and we're going to focus on the stakes. Here's the lineup of black-type races today:
Race 7, $100,000 Skipat Stakes, 6 furlongs, dirt, fillies and mares 3 and up. Post time 2:39 pm (all times Eastern).
Race 8 Grade 3 Adena Springs Miss Preakness. 3-year-old fillies; 6 furlongs, dirt. Post time 3:13 pm.
Race 9 $100,000 Hilltop Stakes. 3-year-old fillies; 1 mile, turf. Post time 3:43 pm.
Race 10 Grade 3 Pimlico Special. Horses 3 and up; 1 1/4 miles, dirt. Post time 4.:14 pm.
Race 11 Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan. 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 mile, dirt. Post time 4:48 pm.
Race 12 $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint. Horses 3 and up; 5 furlongs, turf. Post time 5:25 pm.
Race 13 Grade 3 Allaire Dupont Distaff. Fillies and mares 3 and up; 1 1/8 miles, dirt. Post time 5:57 pm.
We need to take a moment to mention the track conditions. The main track at Pimlico was fast yesterday, and will be fast today. It's been dry in Baltimore since Tuesday, but after all the rain in the days prior to that, the turf course was still yielding for Thursday's races, and it was soft enough that a couple of the grass races were moved to dirt. At press time on Friday morning, the turf is listed as good, and we expect that the turf will dry out as the day goes on (because of the typical lack of humidity, grass courses dry out faster in May than at any other time of the year). But while we don't know whether the course will be listed as good or firm or something else, we are expecting it to have some cut in it, and we are handicapping the grass races to reflect this.
We'll also take a moment to talk about how the surfaces have been playing: the grass and the dirt were completely, totally fair on Thursday. We expect them to be the same today. So with that out of the way, let's go.
Race 7, The Skipat, has an overwhelming favorite, 3-Chalon. This 5-year-old mare is admirably consistent, and is coming off a game second in the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Moroever, on form, she stands out, having a significant speed-figure edge. She's by far the likeliest winner, but we are going to try to beat her, because A) she's making her first start since the Breeders Cup, and horses in that spot can be vulnerable; and B) she's going to be 3/5. We are going to try to beat her with 9-Estilo Femenino. This 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute seems to have improved dramatically since being moved from Aqueduct to Oaklawn over the winter, and she has posted some sizzling recent morning workouts, suggesting that trainer Steve Asmussen has her ready to fire. We think that at 9/2 she is a square price, and we will bet her to win. The bet: Pimlico, Race 7, $15 to win on Estilo Femenino.
Race 8 is the Miss Preakness, a 6-furlong dirt sprint for 3-year-old fillies. This is a sensationally good race, with some top-quality female sprinters. There are some seriously fast runners in here, including the wonderfully named 2-Covfefe, as well as 6-Never Enough Time. We think that these two will be winging it on the front end, going so quickly, in fact, that they will wear each other out. That should set up the race for Bob Baffert trainee 11-Fighting Mad, who has a desirable stalking style, and who has an ideal outside post to stalk the speedsters. At 4-1, Fighting Mad is a good bet, and we will bet her to win. The bet: Pimlico, Race 8, $25 to win on 11-Fighting Mad.
The Hilltop is Race 9, and it is a mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. The German-bred 2-Nova Sol is the pick here. She's making her first North American start, but she's trained by Chad Brown (22% win rate with North American firsters), she's stakes-placed in Europe (a good third in a Group 3 at Deauville), and she will relish grass with some give in it. If we thought we might get her 7/2 morning-line price, we'd be plunging with both fists, but we think she will be a shorter price. We will bet her anyway, but we will due so more moderately. The bet: Pimlico, Race 9, $25 to win on 2-Nova. As the basketball fans on the Main Line say, Go Nova!
The Pimlico Special goes as Race 10 today, and this is a great race with a rich and important history. Because of that, it's nice to see that it drew a full field of 14, and that it's a good field too, not just a bunch of tomato cans. This is a wide open race, and virtually any of these could win, but we are going to make 13-You're to Blame the pick. This Todd Pletcher trainee and son of Distorted Humor has been in good form recently, has been working steadily if unspectacularly in the morning, and has the right stalking style -- there some speed in this race, and we think a wire-to-wire winner at this 10-furlong distance is unlikely. This is a stab, but we'll take 13-You're to Blame on top, and we will bet him to win.The bet: Pimlico, Race 10, $10 to win on 13-You're to Blame.
Now onto the headliner, the Black-Eyed Susan, which has a good field of nine. The two most talented runners, and the morning line choices, are 8-Point of Honor, who's the 5/2 favorite, and 4-Cookie Dough, who's the 3/1 second choice. We would normally favor Cookie Dough, as she has much more early speed, but there are a couple of speedyt fillies in here: 3-Ulele, 7-Brill, and 9-Las Setas are all likely to go early with Cookie Dough, and we think this will set the race up for Point of Honor's midpack/closing running style. We see a multi-horse speed duel up front, the speedsters running out of gas at the top of the stretch, and Point of Honor seizing control of the race late. We think this is a good betting opportunity, and we will bet Point of Honor to win enthusiastically. The bet: Pimlico, Race 11, $40 to win on 8-Point of Honor.
We'll cover the final two stakes on the card in brief. In the Jim McKay, odds-on favorite 3-Bound for Nowhere figures to win the race at a very short price; this is a race to watch, unless the notion of a $2.80 win mutuel excites you. In the Allaire Dupont Distaff, 6-Golden Award, who's the 5/2 morning line favorite, appears to outclass the field, and looks winnerish to us.
Because it's a big day, we're going to throw in a couple of multi-race exotics. We like Fighting Mad in the Miss Preakness; we like Nova in the Hilltop; we like Point of Honor in the Black Eyed Susan, and we think the Pimlico Special is wide open. So in the Pick 4 on races 8-11, and in the Pick 3 on races 9-11, we'll single Fighting Mad, Nova, and Point of Honor, and we'll play an all-burger in the Pimlico Special. These tickets work out as follows:
Pimlico, Race 8, $2 Pick 4: 11 (Fighting Mad) with 2 (Nova) with ALL with 8-Point of Honor.This is 14 combinations, for a total wager of $28.
Pimlico, Race 9, $1 Pick 3: 2 (Nova) with ALL with 8-Point of Honor. This is 14 combinations, for another total wager of $28.
That's all for today. We'll be back tomorrow with a detailed look at the Preakness card.
For the Black Eyed Susan festivities this afternoon, enjoy the racing, and, as always, good luck at the windows.