- Stormy Blues S. (R5) — 3yo fillies, 5 furlongs on the turf
- Primonetta S. (R8) — fillies and mares, 3 and up, 6 furlongs
- Henry S. Clark S. (R9) — 3 and up, one mile on the turf
- Federico Tesio S. (R10) — 3 year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
- Webb Snyder Charles Town Dash (R7) — 3 and up, 4 1/2 furlongs
- Original Gold S. (R8) — WV-bred fillies and mares, 3 and up, 7 furlongs
- Confucius Say S. (R9) — WV-bred 3 and up, 7 furlongs
- Robert Hilton Memorial S. (R10) — 3 year-olds, 7 furlongs
- Sugar Maple S. (R11) — Fillies and mares, 4 and up, 7 furlongs
- Grade 2 Charles Town Classic — 4 and up, 1 1/8 miles[/boxify]
It’s a huge weekend in the mid-Atlantic, with Pimlico in the afternoon and Charles Town at night both presenting major racing cards.
For analysis of the three big Charles Town races, check out Bobby Zen’s thoughts here.
As for the Pimlico stakes…
Early in the week, there was concern about whether the Stormy Blues would fill — but by the time entries had closed, eight three year-old fillies were in the mix for this grass sprint. It’s an interesting cast of characters with plenty of ways to go. Sagamore homebred Tizgale showed little in three dirt tries but became an entirely different horse on the green. She’s won two straight at Gulfstream and narrowly bested another of today’s entrants, Sweet Emma Rose last out. She’s been away since February, which is her only question mark. Speaking of Sweet Emma Rose, the Wesley Ward trainee’s done plenty right herself. Second in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot last year, she ran second and then first in two allowance tries at Gulfsteam. All Miss Behaviour did as a two year-old was win the Grade 2 Matron for trainer Phil Schoenthal and earn PA-bred two year-old filly honors. Her subsequent tries weren’t as strong, but she has excuses; this’ll be her first time on the lawn. Hot Squeeze looked lime something good late last summer, breaking her maiden at first asking at Saratoga and then running well in a near-miss defeat in the Selima. She’ll make her second start of ’14, and a return to better form could put her in the mix…
A good group of fillies and mares is set to contest the Primonetta at six furlongs. Winning Image owns 12 wins from 26 career starts and earnings of nearly $600,000. She figures to be the speed of the speed in here and rates a legit shot to take the field all the way. I’m Mom’s Favorite loves her some Pimlico, with two local wins, including in last year’s Miss Preakness. She does her best running from the stalking spot. Do Somethin owns three straight wins, all impressive; she’s another who can stalk and pounce and might be the hottest horse here. OK, this is it: we give Red’s Round Table one more shot at returning to her 2011 — pre-injury — form. Talented runner won eight of her first 10 career starts but now owns a five-racing losing streak. Her three since a year layoff are all OK — but just OK.
The Henry S. Clark has served as a prep for the Grade 2 Dixie on Preakness weekend for several horses, most notably Mr. O’Brien, who used a win here as a springboard to win the big race. The field in this intriguing event:
- Roadhog — Consistent hard-hitter owns five career stakes wins and owns two wins at the mile trip. He hasn’t always run his best races off layoffs but has worked well enough for this to rate consideration.
- Hamp — Sagamore longshot narrowly lost last out against a horse winning his fifth straight, and that race has produced two next-out winners and a horse that was stakes-placed. Hamp ran huge that day, nearly overcoming a rough trip and closing very fast. Intriguing longshot in this spot.
- Wry Me — Would be a big surprise if he runs if the race stays on the turf. Would be an even bigger surprise if he ran and got a piece of the action.
- Under Control — Lightly raced six year-old sure has kept some ritzy company; recent defeats came to hard hitters Atigun, Sleepless Knight and Quick Wit. Two of his three career wins are at this distance for trainer Graham Motion but will need to find more here.
- Super Chunky — Likable veteran owns seven wins in a 45-race career — but none despite numerous tries in stakes company. Could run well here but unlikely to change that statistic.
- Nutello — Here’s one to be all the way in on — or all the way off of. French stake winner was 11-1 in North American debut last August, running a very good third in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. But his two since have been disastrous. He’ll appreciate the easier spot and, perhaps, the return to Lasix. But is he a legit graded runner with excuses the last two, or has something gone wrong that connections can’t figure out? Your call.
- Change of Command — Solid runner threw in a surprise clunker in last fall’s Maryland Million Turf, won by Roadhog, and that earned him a trip to the bench. Son of Gators N Bears had been in training pretty much continuously since mid-2011, and it’s possible the freshening might be what the doc ordered. Mike Trombetta trainee won the Elkwood last year, and a return to that form would make him a player here.
- Smash and Grab — Red-hot runner’s only defeat in his last four was in the Grade 3 General George, in which he was burned up on the front end. Has a win in six turf tries, and last, in September, was a game second to 2-5 Chamois in the Stanton at Delaware. That runner later won the Duluth at Aqueduct. Figures the lone speed and might be able to take them a long, long way.
- Indian Jones — Deep closer mostly doesn’t get there and is working on a six-race losing streak. He broke his maiden on the lawn, his only turf win in five tries.
- Tiz Gianni — Exits the same allowance as does Hamp, but with less inspiring results, having finished ninth. Does own a turf stakes win at the distance, but that was 12 races and two claims ago.
- Powder Mountain — Far outside is a tough post for Rodney Jenkins runner, who is certainly a nice enough horse but looks to be in too deep here.
The final stake of the day at Pimlico is the Federico Tesio, the last local prep for the Grade 1 Preakness. Several runners have come from this race to perform in the big one, among them Magic Weisner, who ran second here and then second in the 2002 Preakness to War Emblem. Another notable Tesio grad of more recent vintage is Ruler on Ice, who ran second to Concealed Identity in 2011. He skipped the Preakness but won the Grade 1 Belmont in his next start. The field:
- Sassicaia — Trainer Chad Brown doesn’t often tilt at windmills, so you have to assume this maiden, a $1.6 million auction purchase is well meant. But none of the horses to have beaten him have shown anything in subsequent tries, and this feels like a lot to ask.
- Oliver Zip — Speedy son of City Zip sure ran well in the Grade 3 Bayshore, just missing, and proved he didn’t need the lead to run a good race. He’s never been beyond seven furlongs, though, and the likely short odds would make him a tough sell in the win spot.
- Matuszak — Late-running, slow-developing sort keeps running decent, but not great, races. Needs to take a solid step forward to be among the top here.
- Joint Custody — Local runner has done a lot right en route to top Maryland-bred juvenile honors and $222,000 in earnings. He’s led in the lane but settled for second in his last two, most recently running behind Kid Cruz, the favorite here. Figures to be a forward factor in a race with some pace, and there’s every reason to think he’ll be involved somewhere late.
- Undertaker — Nicely bred son of Unbridled’s Song owns two wins beyond a mile. Just missed against Charleymillionaire last out, and that runner ran a credible fifth in the Bayshore. Another who figures to be involved early, he beat Kid Cruz two back.
- Elevated — Phil Schoenthal trainee will likely run in a Charles Town stake instead of here. He would be a huge longshot here.
- Kid Cruz — Improving son of Lemon Drop Kid opened some eyes in flashy Private Terms win. He was pointed to the Wood Memorial, but a minor shoulder injury kept him on the sidelines. Reunites with rider Julian Pimentel and may get a favorable setup and, if so, will be tough to hold off.
- Ground Control — It’s hard to find fault with an undefeated horse, even if he is just two-for-two. He won easily at first asking at Aqueduct and then repeated against allowance foes at Laurel. His Beyer dropped in that second race, which was a mile (as opposed to the six furlongs of his debut). But that effort was better than it looks, as he never had a chance to take a breather all race and held off a rival getting a perfect trip. We’re not sold on him, but at 15-1, we could be.
- Mr. Rover — King Leatherbury trainee ran ninth in the Private Terms and looks to be outclassed here.