black_eye_susan_logoFrom a Maryland Jockey Club release

Poised to make her stakes debut in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 15 at Pimlico, Stoneway Farm’s Ahh Chocolate worked a half-mile in 49.20 seconds for trainer Neil Howard Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. was up for the work and will ride the 3-year-old Candy Ride filly in the 91st running of the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

“It was beautiful, just what Brian and I talked about,” Howard said. “We talked about going 49-and-change, 50, and a strong gallop out. She galloped out in 1:01-and-two. Her training has been pretty steady since she ran at Keeneland, so she worked accordingly. She galloped out real strong, which is what she usually does. We were more than happy.”

The Black-Eyed Susan will be just the third lifetime start for Ahh Chocolate, who broke her maiden Feb. 21 going six furlongs at Fair Grounds before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles with a professional 1 ¾-length score April 8 at Keeneland.

“We’ve been encouraged with her all along, and her races have solidified how we felt,” Howard said. “We didn’t make the decision immediately on the Black-Eyed Susan because we’re talking about making a big jump with a filly that’s only run twice. So, we waited. The way she’s trained helped us make our decision.”

Based in Kentucky, the 66-year-old Howard has made the most of infrequent trips to Pimlico. He captured the 1990 Preakness Stakes (G1) with Summer Squall, his first starter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, and came back to run second in 2003 with Midway Road.

“You try to be judicious on what you’re doing and not take the races lightly, especially a race of this magnitude,” he said. “If there is any apprehension, if you will, it’s the fact that she’s light on seasoning. She’s got a real good demeanor. There’s a lot of things that made me feel – and the owners agreed – that we’re OK to do this.”

Luminance Shines in Black-Eyed Susan Breeze

Before Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Preakness-bound colts, Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah and third-place finisher Dortmund, galloped Saturday at Churchill Downs, he gave Luminance a five-furlong breeze in preparation for the Black-Eyed Susan.

The bay daughter of Tale of the Cat was clocked in 1:00 under exercise rider Chris Landeros, the fastest of 23 works at the distance.

“She had a nice work in a minute and out in 1:13,” Baffert’s assistant trainer Jim Barnes said.

Owned by Kaleem Shah, Luminance finished second in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) in her most recent start and Saturday’s work was her fourth at Churchill Downs since that race and third bullet performance.